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Southwestern’s James McKinney dies; was church music school dean emeritus

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–James McKinney, dean emeritus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of church music and distinguished professor of voice, died from cancer-related complications at his Fort Worth, Texas, home April 12. He was 77.
McKinney taught at Southwestern 44 years and was dean of the school of church music 37 years, serving at the seminary from 1950-94. He also performed as a soloist in numerous recitals, oratorios and church concerts nationally and internationally.
“He was one of the greatest statesmen and visionaries of this century,” said Benjamin Harlan, dean of the school of church music. “We will greatly miss him.”
William J. Reynolds, a distinguished professor of church music at Southwestern, remembers McKinney as a colleague and friend. “He did an excellent job as dean, and he received a high level of recognition throughout the world,” Reynolds said. “He ran a tight ship, built a strong faculty and produced quality students during his years at Southwestern. I am shocked and saddened by his passing.”
McKinney earned his bachelor of music and master of music degrees from Louisiana State University in 1950 and his doctorate from the University of Southern California in 1969.
His honors include being named to the American Academy of Teachers of Singing; being selected “Collegiate Music Teacher of the Year” by the Fort Worth Music Teachers Association; being honored by the University of Southern California in recognition of professional service, leadership and performance; receiving a “Distinguished Service Award” from the school of church music in 1992; and receiving the W. Hines Sims Award, the highest honor of the Southern Baptist Church Music Conference, in 1994. His publications include “The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults,” “Five Practical Lessons in Singing,” six music theory books, two programmed learning kits for voice instruction and several magazine articles. He had also been editor of The NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) Journal since 1987.
McKinney was minister of music and a deacon at Western Hills Baptist Church, Fort Worth. He had served in numerous denominational, national, international and civic music organizations, including the Fort Worth Opera, the Fort Worth Symphony and the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
McKinney married the former Elizabeth Richmond in 1949. She survives, along with three sons, James C. Jr. and Timothy Richmond, both of Fort Worth, and John Kevin, of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and seven grandchildren.
Memorials may be made to Southwestern’s James C. McKinney Ensemble Scholarship Fund; the Western Hills Baptist Church music program; the James McKinney National Association of Teachers of Singing Intern Program Fund or the American Cancer Society.
Services are scheduled for 2 p.m., Thursday, April 16, in Southwestern’s Truett Auditorium. McKinney’s body will lie in state from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the seminary’s Bowld Library Atrium. The family will receive visitors from 10 a.m. until noon. Thompson’s Harveson and Cole of Fort Worth is in charge of funeral arrangements. Interment will be at Laurel Land Memorial Park, Fort Worth.
In honoring one of McKinney’s requests, a men’s chorus will be assembled for the memorial service. Students, graduates and friends are invited to sing in the chorus, which will be conducted by McKinney’s longtime friend and professional colleague, Robert Burton.
“Our relationship began 52 years ago as students at Louisiana State University and was renewed as colleagues at Southwestern,” said Burton, a distinguished professor emeritus of conducting and retired director of ensemble activities. “He was stalwart in his relationships and consistent in his love and concern for others. He was always there if we needed him. He was a true friend.”

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  • Karen Varnedoe