Dr. Joseph Columbus McKinney was born October 8, 1920 in Wayne County, North Carolina, the ninth of fifteen children of devout Christian parents, Sarah and Lum.

An honor graduate of A&T State University of North Carolina in Greensboro, he majored in electrical engineering, physics and mathematics. After graduating, he served with distinction as a Research Engineer in a career that spanned twenty-five years, beginning in 1948 with the then Army Security Agency, later to be designated the National Security Agency (NSA). Dr. McKinney advanced to the highest position in his department at a time when African Americans were not in the mainstream. He was a member of the first NSA engineering group when NSA was formed in 1952 and is enshrined in the Agency’s Cryptologic Museum, which recognizes the contributions of African Americans to the nation’s security.

Dr. McKinney served as the Treasurer of the African Methodist Episcopal Church from 1972 until his retirement in 1996. He was a member of the governing boards of the World Council of Churches and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, the World Methodist Council, the Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, Georgia and Morris Brown College, Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1975, Dr. McKinney was Chairman of the Board of the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children as the building they owned at 733 Euclid St. transformed into the Key Day Care Center. Key Day Care served the community for 25 years providing affordable day care to working parents. After Dr. McKinney suffered a stroke, the Key Day Care Center was unable to maintain the building and abandoned it in 1999.

Out of his desire to keep the building in service to the community, Dr. McKinney generously donated 733 Euclid St. to the Emergence Project in January 2003. He died September 16, 2005 after a long illness.