OLYMPIA – The Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney, the outspoken activist credited with securing Martin Luther King Jr.’s sole visit to Seattle, is the first subject honored with a Legacy Washington profile in “Who are we?, a look at standouts in Washington’s political and cultural history.
In a state of 7 million people, Who are we? examines the lives of a diverse cast of standouts who helped make Washington the place it is today. These key leaders – memorable and little-known – fought for civil rights, gave voice to the terminally ill, preserved the environment and rose above dramatic moments in political history.
The historical project includes a series of in-depth profiles that will be released on the Secretary of State’s website throughout 2016, and a public exhibit that will open in August. All educational material published by Legacy Washington is available for free, and accessible at more than 200 libraries, schools and organizations around the country.
Dr. McKinney – a fighter for social justice, a Seattle civil rights pioneer, a national leader and a longtime Baptist minister – recounts racism in Seattle since his arrival in 1957, and the impact of the struggle for equality on his family. McKinney is the father of two daughters who were taunted on the school playground and worse.
“There are certain calls in your life that you cannot reject or ignore,” McKinney says. “There’s a price to pay, but you go on and pay it. You can ask the Lord to give you the strength to make it, and He did.”
McKinney is the former pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church and a prominent activist in Seattle’s civil rights movement.
McKinney’s profile, “We’re not in Heaven yet,” may be accessed on the Secretary of State’s website http://www.sos.wa.gov/legacy/who-are-we/stories/samuel-mckinney/. It was written by Trova Heffernan, director of Legacy Washington who has authored multiple profiles, several books and a series of historical exhibits for the project.
“Dr. McKinney stands as one of the most prominent religious and civil rights leaders in Seattle history,” Secretary of State Kim Wyman said. “When you learn more about his family roots, you see what inspired him to help lead and survive the movement in the 1960s. His story is a must-read for every Washingtonian living in this diverse state.”
An original member of the Seattle Human Rights Commission, McKinney led boycotts against companies that refused to hire minorities, and protests for open housing in an era of restrictive covenants that forced most racial minorities in Seattle to live in the city’s Central Area. McKinney also fought for desegregated schools at a time of de facto segregation in Seattle.
McKinney, now 89, is a third-generation Baptist minister who was born in Flint, Mich., and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. After serving in a segregated military at the end of World War II, McKinney attended the prestigious Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he befriended Martin Luther King Jr. McKinney and King later were the two candidates for the same job – pastor for the famous Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. King was hired.
McKinney arrived in Seattle late in 1957. Months later, he began a 40-year tenure as pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church. Under his leadership, Mount Zion grew its congregation to 3,000 and became a force for civil rights.
Most famously, McKinney arranged for Dr. King’s sole visit to Seattle. His friendship with King would influence the rest of his life.