Charles Lee McKinney

Published 4:39 pm Monday, June 3, 2013

Charles Lee McKinney

Dec. 6, 1929 – May 21, 2013

Charles passed away on May 21, 2013 in Santa Cruz, CA. He was born in Selma, Alabama, one of five children. He attended St. Bernard College in Cullman, AL, and Jacksonville State College in Jacksonville, AL, where he received his B.S. He proudly served four years as an officer in the US Navy, sailing on the USS Midway during the Korean War. He taught high school in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, where he met his first wife, Virginia Van Lew Omohundro of Richmond, VA. He attended Florida State University, and received his PhD. in education administration in 1963. In 1966 he became the first president of the South Campus of Tarrant County Junior College in Ft. Worth, TX. He held that position for 23 years until 1989, leading the campus through times of great growth and change. Charles was a visionary who saw the potential of distance learning and established the Tarrant County College Distance Learning (DL) program in the late 70’s before most people even knew what distance learning was. The pioneering program grew from seven instructional television courses to today’s offering of over 200 instructional television and online courses.

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After retiring, he pursued his love of hot springs by purchasing a motel and hot springs in Caliente, NV. After several years, he sold it and traveled the country visiting hot springs and other nature sites mostly in the West. He finally settled in Truth Or Consequences, NM, where he became active in organic gardening and helped to establish the “Bountiful Alliance” a non-profit organization dedicated to creating community sustainability through projects such as the farmers’ market, the community garden, recycling center, and water harvesting. He loved New Mexico, which he frequently referred to as the “Land of Enchantment,” and he spent several happy years in “T or C” in quiet retirement taking the waters, browsing yard sales, and gardening.



Charles was a consummate Southern gentleman, a kind and thoughtful man who made friends wherever he went. He was a true scholar who loved books and reading, and had a deep and quiet Christian faith. An avid organic gardener, he loved the peace of nature and being outdoors, as well as cooking and eating healthful foods. He enjoyed animals and children and particularly loved doting on his granddaughter Juliet and being a “Paw-Paw.” He once drove all the way from southern New Mexico to Santa Cruz in a Jeep loaded with gifts for her, including a tricycle and an old-fashioned “spring horse” that he had restored strapped to the roof. After suffering a major stroke in 2008, he convalesced at Kindred Santa Cruz Healthcare center, attended regularly by his friends and family.

The family wishes to gratefully acknowledge caregivers Victoria Pedroza, Karuna “KB” Chapman, and Martha Whitham for the unfailing kindness and attention they showed him. He is survived by his son, Charles Randolph “Rand” McKinney (Candice) and granddaughter Juliet Virginia McKinney of Aptos, CA; sister Doris Veach, of Selma, AL; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Virginia, and his second wife, Marilyn.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Dr. Charles L. McKinney Scholarship, Tarrant County College Foundation, 1500 Houston, Fort Worth, Texas 76102, attn.: Liz Sisk.