Alabama Academy of Honor


John Key McKinley

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1983, in 2002, and in 2014.



John Key McKinley was born March 24, 1920 at Tuscaloosa. He graduated from Tuscaloosa High School in 1937. He earned the B.S. degree in chemical engineering, University of Alabama in l940 and the M.S. degree in organic chemistry, University of Alabama, 1941. He graduated from the Advanced Management Program, Harvard University, 1962.

Following graduation with the M.S. degree, he joined Texaco in May 1941, as a chemical engineer engaged in grease research at the Port Arthur Refinery, Texas. On August 15, 1941, he was called to active service as a reserve officer with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Artillery. He served for four and a half years in Newfoundland, England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany.

He returned to employment with Texaco at Port Arthur where he was assigned again to grease research and then to cracking research. He was appointed supervisor of cracking research in 1954. In 1956, he was transferred to the company's Central Research Laboratory, Beacon, New York, as Assistant to Management. In 1957, he was appointed Assistant Director of Research and 1960, he was named Manager of Commercial Development Process. In late 1960, he was transferred to Texaco's New York City Office as General Manager for Worldwide Petrochemicals. In 1970, he was named Vice President in charge of Supply and Distribution and in 1971, he was elected Senior Vice President for Worldwide Refining. In 1980, the Board of Directors of Texaco, elected Mr. McKinley to serve as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.

He was a Director of Burlington Industries lnc.; Merck and Co. Inc.; Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co.; the Metropolitan Opera Association, and Federated Department Stores, Martin Marietta.

He was a member of the Board of Overseers of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

He received the Bronze Star and various campaign medals in the European Theatre before he was discharged as a Major on November 15,1945. He was awarded the George Washington Honor Medal by the Freedoms Foundation in 1972. In 1982 he was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame. In 1984 he was given the American Eagle Award by the Invest-In-America National Council and the Wallace Award by the American-Scottish Foundation. Also in 1984 the Belgian Government presented Mr McKinley with the Commandeur de L'Ordre de la Courrone, the highest decoration awarded to a corporate leader in recognition of significant contributions to Belgium's economic sector. Mr. McKinley was the recipient of the 1985 Henry Laurence Gantt Memorial Medal presented by the American Management Association and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and in 1982 was presented with the Joseph Wharton Business Statesman Award.

He was a member of Tau Beta Pi; Gamma Sigma Epsilon; Kappa Sigma and Sigma Xi.

He was named a Sesquicentennial Honorary Professor at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

He was awarded the Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws by the University of Alabama in 1972 and by Troy State University in 1974. He was listed in Who's Who in America.

He married Helen Grace Heare on July 19, 1946, and they have two children: John Key, Jr., and Mark Charles, and three grandchildren. John McKinley passed away on June 12, 2014.