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Southern Hall of Fame Member Wilton McKinney Passes

January 11, 2011 11:44 PM
Wilton McKinney
Wilton Johnson McKinney, a member of the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame and the first inductee into the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame, 89, of 238 Byrd Boulevard, passed away Jan. 8, 2011 at McCall Hospice House of Greenville after a period of declining health.
 
McKinney was a founder and president of the South Carolina Tennis Association and a board member of the USTA Southern for 15 years.
 
McKinney was born in Greer, S.C., the son of Alice Johnson and Boyd Brown McKinney. The family moved to Greenville when he was twelve. He graduated from Greenville High School and the University of South Carolina, where he was student body president, Captain of the Gamecock Tennis Team and a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He was a faithful member of Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville.
 
While at the University of South Carolina, he entered the Naval ROTC Program and served three years in the Pacific Fleet during World War II. After the war, he graduated from college and returned to Greenville, where he worked as an accountant for Burlington Industries. During this time, he became the coach of the Greenville High School boy's tennis team, a voluntary position he served for 25 years.
 
McKinney's teams won 16 state high school championships and three Southern high school championships. He also coached the Greenville High girl's tennis team for one year and they won a state championship. In 1974, he became director of tennis at the Greenville Country Club.
 
He was one of South Carolina's Tennis Association Founders and also served secretary and treasurer. He was a certified USTA official and served as chairman of the Southern Umpires Committee. He was a chair umpire at 11 Family Circle Magazine Cups and served as tournament director for the Southern Men's and Women's Championships. He also served as coach of the Southern Junior Davis Cup team.
 
Over the years, he received numerous honors, including the Marlboro Award from World Tennis Magazine, the Jacobs Bowl, which was is USTA Southern's highest volunteer award, and in 1986, the South Carolina Tennis Association established the Wilton McKinney Bowl, which is given to the state's most outstanding junior player.
 
He was also a member of both the South Carolina and the Southern Tennis Patron Foundation Boards. He was the first inductee into the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame.
 
He was awarded the Order of the Palmetto in April of 1986 and as a Rotarian received the Paul Harris Fellow Award. He was named to the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1991. In 1993, he became a member of the Greenville High Athletic Hall of Fame and USTA Southern inducted him into the Southern Hall of Fame in 1997. He was the oldest living member of the University of South Carolina's Gamecock Club. McKinney also spent years working with the Southern Tennis Association in the authoring of a book on the history of Southern tennis.
 
McKinney loved the game of tennis and enthusiastically gave of himself and his resources as evidenced by his financial support in donating the funds to construct the tennis courts at the Eastside Campus of the YMCA. In 2001, The Friends of Wilton McKinney Tennis Fund was established to provide a permanent endowment for tennis programs that promote junior tennis development for underprivileged children.
 
In 2005, he donated the funds to construct the tennis house at the new Greenville High tennis courts and he recently committed the funds to construct several of the courts at The Salvation Army, Ray and Joan Kroc Tennis Complex, which is expected to open this summer.
 
McKinney coached tennis for over 65 years, surrounding himself with a virtual "tennis family" that spanned over three generations. He coached hundreds of players, several of whom, played in Wimbledon as well as other major championship tournaments, and more tha 35 of his players received tennis scholarships to play at the collegiate level. Other former players went on to become a Pulitzer Prize winning author, a former speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives and a United States ambassador, a university president, and several doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, judges, businessmen, and even a few tennis pros.
 
McKinney is survived by his sister, Lidie McKinney Howes; his sister-in-law, Mrs. Carolyn Boyd McKinney; six nieces and nephews.
 
In addition to his parents, McKinney was preceded in death by two brothers, Marshall Eugene McKinney and Collis Samuel McKinney.
 
Visitation will be Wednesday, January 12, 2011 from 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. at the Greenville Country Club.
The funeral service will be held Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. at the Second Presbyterian Church.
 
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Friends of Wilton McKinney Tennis Fund, c/o Greenville Community Foundation, 27 Cleveland Street, Suite 101, Greenville, SC 29601 or McCall Hospice House, 1836 West Georgia Road, Simpsonville, SC 29680.
 
 
 

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