Mitchell McKinley: The Quiet Man Who Made A Big Impact

We recently lost one of our most successful African-American entrepreneurs.  In my estimation, he was in a class by himself due to his great achievements as a businessman, church steward, and community involvement.  Regrettably, we (in the African American community of Dillon County) cannot boast or lay claim to having produced but a minute few men in the caliber of Mitchell McKinley.  Without the presence, contribution, and inspiration of such ambitious, industrious, and daring men, no impoverished people or community can ever hope to rise to a state of equality and prosperity.  The Mitchell McKinleys are too rare in our area and culture.  Here was a man who achieved success, not by hook or by crook, but through the old fashion way of hard work, thrift, risk taking, and stick-to-itiveness.  If ever there was a time when the achievements and exploits of such men needed to be cited and highlighted, it is today.  This is especially true for our locale where far too many of our young people lack the drive and motivation to push and to strive against the odds and opposition of illiteracy, drugs, poverty, joblessness, and systemic racism that continues to be a factor and part of the problem.  We need some visible and accessible heroes and champions who dwell among us.  Celebrities like Beyoncé, LeBron James, Cam Newton, and even our President, as much as young people revere and even perhaps idolize them, can only inspire and impact our misguided youth from a distance. We need more like Mitchell McKinley, who rose from the ashes to achieve great things right here in the culture and community that oppressed them.  Let me give you a brief biography of the man we are considering:
Mr. Mitchell McKinley was the second oldest child born to the late Charlie “Dock” and Ruth Nance McKinley.  He was born on January 3, 1938 in Dillon South, Carolina and departed this life on November 21, 2015 at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, South Carolina.
Mr. McKinley was educated in Dillon, South Carolina and graduated from Gordon High School.  He obtained his education and became a licensed barber at an early age.  He was also employed at Dixiana Mills in 1967.  On June 27, 1967, he married Mary Jane McCallum McKinley, who preceded him in death.
Mr. McKinley was always of a business frame of mind.  He, along with his wife, were prominent entrepreneurs of Dillon County.  In 1969, they opened McKinley’s Fish Market, Razor’s Edge Barbershop, and Mitchell’s Pool Room.  Mitchell continued working at Dixiana Mills for several years while continuing to maintain his businesses.  He, along with his wife, owned and operated the Riverdale Residential Care Facility.  He obtained the following to help those in need:  Licensed Notary Public, Licensed Community Residential Care Facility Administrator, and a Certified Nursing Assistant.  He always had words of wisdom to provide to anyone who came for advice, comfort, or just plain conversation.  He never met a stranger and would be willing to help in any way he could without looking for a return.  He instilled Christian values into his family. He was always a provider who taught his family that you had to work in order to have the things you desire in life.
The previous information was gleaned from the obituary that was prepared for his memorial and homegoing services.  I was privileged to have been asked by the McKinley Family to be one of the ones to make remarks.  I brought to the attention of those who had gathered for the memorial service the fact that Mr. Mitchell McKinley was a great man who made an impact in our community.  He was a great man because of his achievements as an entrepreneur and an innovator who had the courage to do things that no other African American man in our area would dare attempt.  He did it without any fanfare or attempt to toot his horn.  Mr. Mitchell McKinley was an unassuming man, a quiet man who maintained a low profile, and in the process, left a legacy and example for not only his children and grandchildren to follow, but also for all of us who desire to succeed to imitate.  He was a great man, a genuine giant among us, who did not realize that he cast such a long shadow and left his mark on the African-American community without ever even being given his flowers while he lived.  Regrettably and shame on us, for the most part, we missed the opportunity to honor Mr. Mitchell McKinley during his lifetime.  Such a public expression of gratitude for a man who managed to beat the odds through hard work, thrift, and dogged determination would have been a blow against lazy and irresponsible people who believe that you can get something worth having without working hard for it. If ever there was a time when our young people needed positive role models among them, it is now.  
Mr. Mitchell McKinley was a quiet man who spoke loud and clear through his achievements.  He was an asset and credit to all of us – an unsung hero worthy of both our esteem and emulation.

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