John Lawton McKinney, 88, of Ames, passed away on Thursday, June 13, 2019, at Mary Greeley Medical Center enveloped by the love and prayers of his family and friends.
John was born April 27, 1931, to Helen and Forrest McKinney in Davenport. John was known as “Jack” in those days, and was such a gifted athlete in baseball, football and track that he was Dubbed “Jack Rabbit” by the local press, a moniker that survives to this day on his license plates. Legend has it, that after scoring two touchdowns on two consecutive kickoff returns, the frustrated opposing coach grabbed his kicker by the scruff of the neck and said “Be sure and kick it to McKinney again you idiot, maybe he will hit his head on the goal post after he brings this one back too.”
His abilities opened many choices for his higher education, and even a tryout with, and offer from, the Chicago Cubs organization. Ultimately, he attended the University of Iowa for both his undergrad work and law degree, which he completed in 1955. He then served his country fortwo years as a Staff Judge Advocate in the United States Air Force, earning a rank of 1st Lieutenant after being stationed in Japan, Taiwan and Florida. John found work in Ames in the summer of 1957. Shortly thereafter he met, via blind date in Davenport, Mary Angela Rashid. Mary was a 4-foot, 11.5-inch Lebanese-American version, looks wise, of Elizabeth Taylor.
Being no fool, John proposed to, and won the hand of Mary in short order. Their 60-year marriage began in August 1958. Always knowing how to treat a lady, John spared no expense on their honeymoon trip. Who wouldn’t want to have the first meal of their marriage at the “Dog and Suds” Drive Inn? After enjoying that culinary delight, the McKinneys set up shop in Ames where they would raise a family of four.
John became the Ames Municipal Court Judge on Jan. 1, 1962, a position he would hold until he went into private law practice in September 1973. During his time on the bench, John saw a need for activities for the youth of Ames to participate in. He was a founding member of both the Ames Boys Club and the Ames Little league in the 1960s. John successfully coached baseball for decades and created great memories for his players, both for his ability to get the best out of a player or team, and the colorful language he employed in the process.
Spring of 1970 brought civil unrest to Ames and two attempts on John’s life. Domestic terrorists used homemade explosives devices, one of which was found before it detonated, the other exploding outside of City Hall causing multiple people to be injured. Members of the community rallied around him and his family providing everything from neighborhood foot patrols, to food, to a safe place in the country for his family until things calmed down.
His family was John’s greatest source of both pride and entertainment. It was never too cold, hot, rainy or inconvenient for him to attend the activities in which his extended family was participating, be it athletics, the theater or the middle school science fair.
In between making a living, coaching and raising a family, John found time to officiate both baseball and football, bowl, golf, go fishing with his friends in Canada and travel the U.S., Mexico and Ireland. He also was a longtime member of Rotary, The Knights of Columbus and was an office holder for the Jaycees, Ames Boys Club, Ames Little League and was a Cub Scout Pack leader. No wonder he also enjoyed a long nap on the couch with a ball game playing on TV.
It is impossible to tally the number of people whose lives were made better by the scrappy barrister from Davenport, but it is a huge number, both professionally and personally. He may not have said the words, “I love you,” out loud very often, but when he would tell you a joke with an impish grin, or laugh so hard he would cry as he shared a meal, or bearhug a ball player after they stole home to win a game, or beamed with pride at someone’s accomplishment, or helped pick up the pieces when people were at a low point, the words weren’t needed.
He is survived by his wife, Mary McKinney; his children, John (Terrie) McKinney II, Kevin (Gina) McKinney, Michele (Randy) Wright and Craig (Lani) McKinney; as well as eight grandchildren; and a host of others who are all a welcome addition to the McKinney Clan.
Friends may call from 4 to 7 p.m. on Monday, June 17, 2019, at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, 2900 Hoover Ave., Ames, where a vigil service will be at 7 p.m. Mass of the Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, June 18, 2019, at St. Cecilia Catholic Church. Burial will be in Ames Municipal Cemetery.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Adams Funeral Home and online condolences may be left for the family at www.adamssoderstrum.com. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in John’s name may be made to The Boys and Girls Club, 210 S. Fifth St., Ames, IA, 50010, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN, 38105, or St. Cecilia Catholic Church, 2900 Hoover Ave., Ames, IA, 50010.