First African American graduate of Louisville Seminary dies
Louisville Seminary | May 05, 2006
Rev. Snowden Isaiah McKinnon, Louisville Seminary’s first African-American graduate (BD ‘53), died April 20, at Grace Presbyterian Village in Dallas, Texas. He was 92 years old. A memorial service was held April 27 at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas.
McKinnon was a distinguished leader in the Presbyterian denomination and earned the recognition and respect of the Dallas community for his devotion and work for underprivileged children.
Prior to answering a call to ministry, McKinnon attended Texas Southern University in Houston before serving as a technical sergeant in the Army Air Force during World War II. After the war, he received his bachelor's degree from Fisk University in Nashville, where he graduated with honors.
In 1950, McKinnon, an African American Baptist, was denied admission to another seminary, so he enrolled at the all-white Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, which chose to defy segregation laws in order to provide for his residency on the campus. Following his graduation in 1953, McKinnon became a Presbyterian. He was called as pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. In 1961 he was instrumental in the organization of a new Presbyterian congregation, Highland Hills Presbyterian Church, and served as pastor there for nearly thirty years. Upon his retirement in 1999, he was named pastor emeritus.
McKinnon also served two terms as chairman of the Black Presbyterian Caucus of the Presbyterian Church U.S. and as Director of the Booker T. Washington Learning Center and Day Care, both in Dallas. His excellence in inner-city ministry and his efforts on behalf of low-income children and their families in the Dallas area were recognized by Louisville Seminary with a 1993 Distinguished Alum Award.
“Snowden McKinnon was a saint of God who embodied the deeper meanings of pastoral integrity and racial reconciliation. We are his debtors,” said Seminary President Dean K. Thompson.
In his retirement, McKinnon attended First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, where Louisville Seminary alum William J. Carl (MDiv ’73) served as pastor from 1983-2005. In recognition of McKinnon’s crusade for disadvantaged children in the Dallas area, Carl led the church to name a room at Louisville Seminary’s Laws Lodge Retreat and Conference Center in honor of McKinnon and his wife, Linda R. McKinnon, who serves as an elder at the church.
“When Snowden wasn't preaching somewhere, he was sitting with his wife Linda listening to me preach and "Amening" my sermons. He was a real delight and it's a loss to the church that he is now gone. I will miss him,” said Carl, now President of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
In addition to his wife, Mr. McKinnon is survived by two sons, Snowden McKinnon Jr. of Baton Rouge, La., and Argentry Nichols of Houston; a sister, Amatha Wynn of Houston; and several grandchildren.
Memorials may be made to the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas Foundation, or the Linda R. and Snowden McKinnon Scholarship at Fisk University, 1000 17th Ave. North, Nashville, Tenn. 37208.