Sad news: Former State Rep passes away

Former State Rep. Billy McKinney (L). Archival footage: Cynthia McKiney's parents at 2008 Green Party Presidential Convention

Former State Rep. Billy McKinney, the father of former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, has died.

Former State Rep. Billy McKinney, the father of former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, has died.

Rep. Tyone Brooks (D-Atl.), a longtime friend of McKinney, confirmed the death.

On Common Ground News reported on its Web site Thursday that McKinney, a Democrat who served 30 years as a state legislator, died among family and friends Thursday at his home in southwest Atlanta, according to sources who were with his wife, Leola.

The newspaper said McKinney had been ill for a while and that he died surrounded by people who were close to him, some of them holding his hand.

“One of Georgia’s tallest pine trees has fallen. My prayers are with his family,” former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones told On Common Ground News.

Jones is a candidate for Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District seat, once held by Cynthia McKinney.

The McKinneys became the first father-daughter duo to serve simultaneously in the Georgia House when Cynthia McKinney was first elected in 1992.

4 Responses

  1. As many will know, Rep. Cynthia McKinney was the 2008 Green Party Presidential candidate. Our condolences go out to Cynthia.

  2. A Glimpse into the life of Honorable James Edward “Billy” McKinney

    Sunrise February 23, 1927 — Sunset July 15, 2010

    James Edward “Billy” McKinney was born to the late Ann Lewis in Atlanta, Georgia. He was raised by his loving grandmother, Annie Bell Dixon.

    Billy joined the U.S. Army in 1945. Upon his return to Georgia from the European war theatre, while still wearing his U.S. Army uniform, Billy was arrested for drinking from the “White Only” water fountain.

    He attended Clark Atlanta, University and joined the fraternity Phi Beta Sigma.

    “Billy,” as he is fondly known by family, friends and colleagues grew up to become a socially and politically conscious young man; always fighting for justice and equality. This mind-set led him to join the Atlanta Police Department in 1947. Billy was one of the first black policemen in the city of Atlanta. He often reflected on walking the streets of Atlanta being allowed to police only “colored” folk, since black policemen were not allowed to arrest whites. He readily recognized this injustice and formed a one-man protest, picketing the Atlanta Police Department headquarters on his off days,, often in his police uniform and much to the ire of his fellow officers.

    It was on his Grady Hospital “beat” that he met and married his loving wife of 56 years, Leola Christion McKinney. To this union, was born a daughter, Cynthia Ann McKinney. Billy also had 2 sons, Gregory and James, from a previous marriage.

    Billy made a conscious decision that picketing from the outside was not as effective as being on the inside as a part of the law-making body, helping to make laws that made sense. He ran unsuccessfully for Alderman, County Commissioner, as well as U.S. Congress as an Independent Candidate in 1982, against Wyche Fowler.

    Billy McKinney was NOT a quitter, and in 1970, was elected to the Georgia State Legislature after the passage of the 1965 Voting rights Act mandated election law changes in the State of Georgia. His position in the Legislature was accompanied by that of his daughter in 1989, as she too was elected to the Georgia State Legislature. Thus, Billy and Cynthia served as the first father-daughter team of lawmakers in the history of the State of Georgia. Billy served as an elected official in the State where he was born and raised for more than 30 years.

    Many bills were enacted during his years as a public servant that changed the legislative landscape of the State of Georgia. In tribute to his service, a stretch of Interstate 285, from I-20 to the Cobb County line is named in his honor; Representative James E. “Billy” McKinney. Highway.

    Billy was one of the forgotten Civil Rights advocates and activists. He often joined causes for justice and equality with his then-young daughter on his shoulders. He marched with the more recognized leaders and fought just as hard with the less recognized, but just as important people in the neighborhoods and communities in Atlanta.

    His political prowess was recognized across the nation and the world, and his advice and counsel were sought from elected officials and candidates for elected office near and far. He was requested to tell his life story annually for a period of time to students from California State University at Pomona, as the group toured the South on their Civil Rights Tour; and he often spoke at events of socially conscious organizations. Billy served on numerous boards and was active in many organizations.

    In his younger days, Billy was an avid tennis player. He also spent a lot of time reading and researching, turning himself into a ‘walking encyclopedia.’ His unique view of the world sometimes found him at odds with so-called conventional wisdom, but Billy McKinney was true to his principles, regardless.

    He leaves to cherish his memory his wife, Leola,; daughter, former Congresswoman Cynthia Ann; 2 sons, James and Gregory; one grandson, Coy and 2 granddaughters, Morgan and Lauren; sisters-in-law Joan Christian (Thurman), Atlanta, GA, Virginia Christion, (Roosevelt “Fat”), Birmingham, AL; brothers-in-law: Ernest Christion (Luvenia), Birmingham, AL, Haywood Christion (Wylean), Birmingham, AL Eugene Christion (Cassandra) Atlanta, GA; and many loving nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors, and friends.

    Family Hour will be held on Sunday, July 18, 2010 from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home located at 1003 Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, while the Celebration of Billy’s Life will take place on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 11:00 am at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church (pastored by Reverend Doctor Gregory Sutton), located at 534 Fairburn Road, N.W.; Atlanta, Georgia 30331. Interment will be at Lincoln Cemetery. Arrangements have been made by Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home (

  3. Greens mourn the passing of Billy McKinney, Cynthia’s father

    WASHINGTON, DC — Green Party leaders expressed sadness and sympathy for the family of former Georgia State Rep. James Edward “Billy” McKinney, father of Cynthia McKinney, after his passing on Thursday, July 15, following a long illness. He was 83.

    Billy McKinney served as a state legislator in Georgia for 30 years. Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party’s 2008 presidential nominee and a former six-term Georgia member of the US House of Representatives, also served in the Georgia legislature. They became the first father-daughter duo in the Georgia House when Ms. McKinney was first elected in 1992.

    “The McKinney family has the sympathy of all of us in the Green Party. Cynthia McKinney was very proud of her father and his legacy, just as we’re sure Billy McKinney was very proud of Cynthia,” said Rosa Clemente, who was nominated as the Green vice-presidential candidate in 2008. “I join with all Greens and freedom loving people as we send love and light to Cynthia, her mother Leola, and Coy, Billy’s grandson. I met both Billy and Leola in Chicago during our nomination weekend. I was lucky to have met and been supported by Billy as his daughter and I made history. Let’s use the legacay left by James Edward ‘Billy’ McKinney to move forward in our collective struggle and fight for justice.”

    Billy and Leola McKinney joined Cynthia on the stage of the Chicago Symphony Center on July 12, 2008, when she accepted the Green Party’s presidential nomination.

    “Billy McKinney was truly a public servant and Cynthia McKinney is living his legacy,” said Lucy Grider-Bradley, who served as Cynthia McKinney’s campaign coordinator in her successful run for the US House in 2004.

    The Georgia Green Party, during its last state convention, adopted a proclamation “extend[ing] our heartfelt appreciation [to Billy and Leola McKinney] for their leadership, service and many other contributions to their local, national and global community” and honoring them “for their lives so well lived, and for the vital contributions they have made to an independent and justice seeking politics both here in Georgia, as well as in the national and international community.” (

    Funeral arrangements are pending. For more information, contact attorney Mike Raffauf at 404-452-6390.

    Cynthia McKinney’s YouTube page:

    Cynthia McKinney’s commentary page:

  4. Cynthia McKinney
    July 19, 2010
    Jackson Memorial Baptist Church
    Atlanta, Georgia

    Reverend Creecy, Reverend Sutton, Reverend Rice, Elected Officials, and all of you:

    Thank you all for being here with us today to honor my father and to *help* all of us who knew and loved him manage our collective grief. It’s funny how I never believed that it would come to this. You all know that Billy was larger than life. He was honest, smart, street-wise, pensive, yet playful. That’s why I can say without a doubt that Billy taught me how to live.

    After I came back from a humanitarian mission to Gaza, but instead having spent 7 days in an Israeli prison, I went on a nationwide tour to tell interested communities what had happened to me. At the Seattle airport, a supporter who has now become my friend, paid me the highest compliment: she told me that I was “alive.”

    I thought long and hard about that. Because, honestly, much to my father’s chagrin, there are so many people in our community who pass their days just marking time instead of making a difference. Billy knew that it was within our capacity to materially change our conditions, if we would only do what is required. He knew *that* because he *did* that. And somehow, he transmitted that faith in our fellow human beings to me and taught me to be free.

    My father also taught me how to love. I’ve learned from my own personal experiences that it’s easy for us Americans to think that we can just order love and pick it up at the drive-through window. But through this journey with my father, I’ve learned to appreciate the African and Asian views of love–that its touch is so deep to our core as human beings, that it is unquantifiable, it is undefinable, and it is what helps to give us core and value and depth and meaning–when we find it.

    Billy taught me love on two levels. He taught me the kind of love that would risk his job to challenge police brutality; that would challenge racism and discrimination; that would give away my Christmas “Etch-a-Sketch” the day after Christmas to a needy child in Bowen Homes. I never forgot that.

    And so, I learned to love my community because every action in my father’s being showed me how to do that. I learned to love humanity because I saw my father grow in his own attitudes and admit that he was wrong about gays and apologize to them in 1996 when he saw their dedication to me after I was forced into a bruising legal battle to remain in Congress and it was only the white gay community in Atlanta that would cross the racial “Maginot” line that is Candler Road out in Decatur and come into my campaign headquarters and fold letters and stuff envelopes and answer phones and do whatever was necessary to help me win reelection in a vastly redrawn district. And I did win in a hotly contested race.

    My father loved people. He sacrificed too much in the way of personal wants and his family sacrificed, too, because his focus wasn’t on only us, it was on his beloved community, too.

    But he has been unfairly smeared by special interests in this town who want to preserve *their* interests at the expense of yours. And my father was not about to sacrifice your interests. In my father, you had a protector and I know you all know that.

    And so, when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other aspects of the pro-Israel Lobby in this country, including their supporters right here in Georgia, targeted me for defeat, my father came to my rescue by telling the truth. I was targeted by the pro-Israel Lobby because I dared to question the Bush Administration about what happened on September 11, 2001 and because I have the audacity to believe that no group of people, including Palestinians who *are* the Semitic people in this discussion, by the way, should suffer as Blacks in the United States have suffered. Billy McKinney called them out and let you know the truth about what was going on and who was doing it in the midst of intentionally-created confusion and campaign chaos.

    That chaos included acts of political sabotage, including both my father and I being abandoned by some of our closest personal and political friends. The attack on us was total. And the battle was for your mind so that you would lose respect for someone unafraid of speaking truth to power. My father came to my defense because I rightly questioned how George Bush could “win” an election in which he lost the vote; why Africa’s diamonds, oil, cobalt, copper, uranium, coltan, timber, and fisheries enriched economies in Europe, the United States, and Israel while Africa remained broke and broken. What I was doing went to the core of the existing power configuration in this country and I began to expose its method of finance.

    After all, I was sent to Washington to represent you. Only thing was that when I got attacked, Billy came to my defense. And he was punished for doing so. Every bad word you read or hear in the special interest press about either one of us, just know that the powerful individuals who operate in the shadows of power, pulling the strings of your elected officials, the U.S. military, government contracts–they all want to keep things in your life exactly as they are now and Billy McKinney understood fully that we need change, but that we are not going to get the deep, structural kind of change we need–we can’t get it on the cheap.

    Billy McKinney made the kind of principled sacrifices that allow us to sleep better at night.

    Lord, what are we going to do now?

    Billy McKinney was all about love. And Billy McKinney loved Leola. During his illness, he would just sit and stare at my mother. And she would ask him what he’s looking at. And he would say “I’m admiring how beautiful you are.”

    Billy and Leola were the definition of love. And in these last months, they have shown me how devoid my life is of that kind of undefinable, unquantifiable love. In that regard, I have a lot of introspection to do.

    Billy McKinney also taught me how to cry. Over these past few months, I didn’t know my body could create so many tears. I have never in my life known this kind of sadness. But Billy taught me to understand that even at the depth of my grief, I must never forget the grief of others: that mothers are crying all over the world because of U.S. policy.

    My father was such a strong black man. It would make me cry just to watch him endure his illness with such grace and dignity. He never complained. No matter how much discomfort my father was in, his universal response was “it’s all good.” And one day at the hospital he was so uncomfortable, he was really uncomfortable, but I heard him say aloud to himself, “It’s gonna be alright, *anyway.*”

    One day he wanted the nurse to reposition him. He was getting his medicine in a way that prevented him from being moved, but he was uncomfortable. So he begged the nurse to please reposition him. Then, as the nurse was about to leave the room, Billy turned to me and asked, “Did she give in?”

    Billy McKinney taught me how to live and how to love, how to cry and how to die. My father, BIlly McKinney, was a hell of a man.

    On behalf of the family, I’d like to thank all of you for the love you gave my father during his life and the support you give to us now.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    A Celebration of the life of
    Honorable James Edward “Billy” McKinney

    Reverend Dr. Gregory Sutton, Pastor, Jackson Memorial Baptist Church, Officiating

    Prelude Bishop Richard Lankford

    Processional Reading Pastor Timothy McDonald – First Iconium Baptist Church

    “If I Can Help Somebody” Ms. Henrietta Antoinin

    Reading from the Old Testament Pastor Richard Cobble – Omega Holiness Church of God

    Reading from the New Testament Pastor Albert Love – Boatright Baptist Church

    Prayer Mr. Gregory McKinney

    Let The Work I’ve Done Speak
    For Me Bishop Richard Lankford

    Remarks Limit to 2 Minutes, Please

    Atlanta Police Department Honorable A. Reginald Eaves
    Floyd L. Reeves

    Georgia Legislature – Past Honorable David Poythress Honorable John White Honorable McCracken Poston Honorable Douglas Dean

    Georgia Legislature – Present Honorable Tyrone Brooks
    Honorable Horacena Tate
    Honorable Sheila Jones
    Honorable Robert Brown

    Friend of the Family Honorable Emma Darnell
    Brenda Clemons
    Ouida Lamar
    Henry Barbour
    Brad Hubbert
    Edgar Hillsman
    Attorney Mike Raffauf

    Georgia Heartland/
    Civil Rights Community John Evans
    Joe Beasley
    Lucious Abrams
    Honorable Emily Davis
    Hal Presley

    Family Member Honorable Cynthia McKinney

    Obituary Please read silently

    “My Tribute” Ms. Henrietta Antoinin

    Eulogy Pastor Derrick Rice – Sankofa United Church of Christ

    Acknowledgments Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home

    Recessional Bishop Richard Lankford

    Lincoln Memorial Cemetery
    Harriet Darnell Senior Center

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