The McKinney Family Legacy

The McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School is named in honor of the McKinney Family, specifically, Dr. Ernest McKinney, Kevin McKinney, and Marion McKinney. Through generations, the McKinney Family had a significant, lasting impact on Jonesborough in the schools and in the Town.

Ernest McKinney moved to Washington County in 1936 from South Carolina. He graduated from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College in Nashville in 1947 and married his wife Marion in 1950. Dr. McKinney started his career as a teacher and principal at Booker T. Washington School in Jonesborough and later taught at Langston High School, the historically black high school in Johnson City. After integration, he moved to Science Hill High School in Johnson City.

He was elected to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in Jonesborough as an Aldermen on April 4, 1968, the same night Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in Memphis. He was again elected to the Town Board in 1978 starting a run of 40 consecutive years in which an African-American has served on the five-member Board of Mayor and Aldermen of Jonesborough. In 1980 he became the first African-American elected to the Washington County School Board, serving as chairman for many years.
Marion McKinney attended Tennessee State and served as a counselor for decades in the Washington County School system positively affecting the lives of many school-aged children over her long career. She was also a community activist, serving on a number of Town committees like the Public Safety Committee, and the Senior Center Advisory Committee.

Ernest and Marion McKinney’s son Kevin was elected to the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen for 12 years beginning in 1984. He served as Jonesborough’s Mayor for nine of those years, being elected four times. With McKinney providing leadership on the Town Board, many long-term improvements were initiated. A new Town Hall was built, along with a new Visitor Center and Museum. A Recreation Program was created with new sports fields to serve younger members of the community, and the Senior Center program was established to serve the elder community members. A new Water Treatment Plant was constructed to improve town infrastructure and to improve quality of life for residents several parks were established under his leadership, including Persimmon Ridge Park, Mill Spring Park, Christopher Taylor Park and Depot Street Park. Eventually, Wetlands Water Park was constructed – initially the first municipally run water park in Tennessee. 

The legacy of the McKinney Family is their love for their community, their desire to work for a better quality of life for all people regardless of race or color, and their personal character in which truth, compassion, and love are the guiding principles.
The McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School is a facility that was once used to separate and divide the school-aged population of Jonesborough and Washington County. Now, the renovated McKinney Center serves as a bridge to unite our community in greater understanding through creative art, cultural, and story-based programs, which draw people together across barriers of difference, to celebrate our rich shared culture and heritage.

Help your community by fulfilling McKinney Center's mission.


The McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School is a multi-use facility providing arts education through Jonesborough's Mary B. Martin Program.


Phone: 423.753.0562

103 Franklin Ave.
Jonesborough, TN 37659