ELDER OLIVER J. MCKINNEY, JR. was born September 15, 1939, and passed away in his sleep onFebruary 24, 2011. Oliver McKinney was the 3rd of ten children to the late Oliver James (Lucy Howard)McKinney, Sr. From infancy, Oliver (known as “Junior” by his relatives & neighbors) grew up with hissiblings on his maternal grandfather’s 150-acre farm in Silver Spring, Maryland. Here, he gained first-handknowledge of farm life. Oliver also learned carpentry and masonry skills from watching his industrious fatheron public building projects. While a youth and teenager, his demeanor and quiet spirit commanded therespect of the young and old whose lives he touched. He was also very careful not to neglect his spiritual life,as he was in church every Sabbath.
Oliver McKinney was a product of the educational system of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. His fatherinstilled in him the love of Christian education for all of the ten children, which Oliver carried throughfor his four children. When Oliver completed his elementary schooling in Washington Union Academyin the District of Columbia (DC), he graduated from high school at South Lancaster Academy (SLA) inMassachusetts. After graduating high school, Oliver continued in Christian Education by attending AtlanticUnion College and Oakwood College. While attending Oakwood College, he temporarily returned home toAlbuquerque New Mexico to work in order to earn more money to continue in his education. While workingat home, he was drafted in the United States Army in 1963. Oliver McKinney was on active duty from May8, 1963–May 7, 1965. He was stationed in Fort Sam Houston, Texas where he did basic and medical trainingand continued on to Fort Riley, Kansas where he served as a medic.
Upon arriving on the base at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Oliver McKinney began transitioning and makingnew friends. On the first Friday evening, as the Sabbath hours were approaching, Oliver began singing alonein the barracks. As soon as his voice filled the air, three other Seventh-day Adventists soldiers stationed at thebase heard the music and immediately joined in. As a result, a singing group was formed. The group memberswere: Oliver McKinney, (2nd Tenor and lead singer), Henrique Frett (1st Tenor), Lawrence Edgecombe(Baritone) [the older brother of the late J. Edgecombe former President of the Southeastern Conference],and Dennis Evans (Bass). The quartet would sing spirituals and hymns. They sang songs such as: “MilkyWhite Way,” “Until I Found the Lord,” “There is a Balm in Gilead,” and many others. “Milky White Way”was sung that first Friday evening on the base and at every singing engagement thereafter. It became OliverMcKinney’s favorite quartet song.
During Oliver McKinney’s time stationed on the base, the quartet would often sing to the soldiers and singin local Adventist churches on Sabbath. On one occasion the quartet was invited to sing for several GeneralConference authors who were meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Whenever the quartet sang, whether it was at alocal church or on the base, Oliver McKinney would often give a sermonette and conclude by inviting peopleto give their lives to Christ. Moved by his appeal and the Holy Spirit, many soldiers often would remove theirhats, stand for prayer, and give their lives to Christ. Oliver McKinney served with distinction—receivingseveral medals and was honorably discharged after being stationed in Fort Sam Houston, Texas and FortRiley, Kansas.
After his discharge from the United States Army, Oliver McKinney returned to Oakwood College. Beforegraduating in the spring of 1968, Elder McKinney received the Moseley-Warren Homiletical Award forthe outstanding student in Homiletics and was a member of “Who’s Who in American Colleges andUniversities.” He was an alumnus of Oakwood College, Andrews Theological Seminary and Gulf CoastTheological Seminary.
The South Atlantic Conference called him into the ministry in 1968 where he served as a pastor-evangelist.Shortly after receiving the call to the ministry, Oliver McKinney married Bonnie Bryant on June 16, 1968 inFlint, Michigan on a beautiful summer day. Elder McKinney pastored in the Laurinburg District in NorthCarolina, the Florence and Hemingway Districts in South Carolina, and the Delray Beach, West Palm Beach,St. Petersburg and Ft. Meyers Districts in Florida.
In 1979, he was called to the South Atlantic Conference as Ministerial Secretary and the Director ofStewardship and Development where he served for two years until he was called to the Southern Union.
Elder McKinney was employed by the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Decatur,Georgia since 1981. For 25 years, he served as the first African-American Ministerial Secretary of theSouthern Union Conference and also served as Director of Stewardship. For the past five years, he servedas Director of Children’s Ministries, Prayer Ministries, and Stewardship. He was also Executive Secretaryand Treasurer of ASI. In addition to his responsibilities in the Southern Union, he served for 14 years asChaplain of the Oakwood University Alumni Association.
His responsibilities carried him into eight states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, NorthCarolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee), into 1,073 churches and 162 companies of the eight conferencesin the Southern Union. Elder McKinney was a featured speaker at camp meetings, worker’s meetings,conventions and various church functions.
Oliver McKinney was a loving husband and great father to his four sons. He is known by his family andfriends as having a warm and encouraging disposition. He was kind and engaging to any and everyone whoencountered him. He loved making people laugh and smile. He often said, “I’m doing okay for a youngman”. This phrase always brought about a pleasant response. His sons admired him and describe him asbeing dependable, hard working, dedicated, and of the highest integrity. Dad was a “Jack of all trades” andhad the ability to fix almost ANYTHING. O.J. was logical with an engineering mind that could take anythingapart and put it back together again. He will always be remembered as a dedicated husband, father, brother,friend and mentor to many. His love language was displayed in acts of service. He was a Christian who lovedthe Lord. He possessed outstanding leadership qualities and was a leader of people. During his army dayshe was described as the “life of the gathering”, “a dynamite preacher” whose preaching would “stir up theplace”. He frequently read the Bible and also the book “Christian Service” by E.G. White. The principles helearned were reflected in the way he related to others.
He is survived by his wife, Bonnie Bryant McKinney; and four sons; Anthony (Helene), Brian (Mae), JamesDion (Maritza), Oliver James III. In addition to his wife and sons, he is survived by the following eightsiblings: Oscar, John (Gloria), Charles (Jacqueline), Elizabeth, and Samuel (Brenda) of Albuquerque, NM;Lavinia (Chico) Young of Whita Falls, TX, Jerome (Thao) of Tecumseh, OK, and Lucy of Atlanta, Georgia aswell as a host of relatives and friends throughout the United States and overseas.