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William Robertson McKenney

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Robertson McKenney
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 4th district
In office
March 4, 1895 – May 2, 1896
Preceded byJames F. Epes
Succeeded byRobert T. Thorp
Personal details
Born(1851-12-02)December 2, 1851
Petersburg, Virginia
DiedJanuary 3, 1916(1916-01-03) (aged 64)
Petersburg, Virginia
Resting placeBlandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materUniversity of Virginia

William Robertson McKenney (December 2, 1851 – January 3, 1916) was a lawyer and U.S. Representative from Virginia.

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Born in Petersburg, Virginia, Mckenney was the son of Robert Armstrong and Virginia Bland Robertson McKenney.[1] He attended McCabe's University School at Petersburg and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. He taught school. He graduated from the law school of the University of Virginia in June 1876. He was admitted to the bar and practiced in Petersburg, Virginia. On December 2, 1878, McKenney married Clara J. Pickrell. Among their children were, Anne Pickrell, William Robertson, Clara Justine, and Virginia Spotswood.[2][3]

McKenney was elected president of the city council of Petersburg in 1888 and served six years. He served as delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1892. He served as member of the Democratic State executive committee, and presented credentials as a Democratic Member-elect to the Fifty-fourth Congress and served from March 4, 1895, to May 2, 1896, when he was succeeded by Robert T. Thorp, who successfully contested his election. He resumed the practice of law in Petersburg, Virginia. Unlike many alumni, McKenney supported the establishment of a co-ordinate college for women at the University of Virginia.[4]

William Robertson McKenney died in Petersburg on January 3, 1916. He was interred in Blandford Cemetery.

In 1923, Clara J. McKenney deeded property to the city of Petersburg for a public library that would serve as memorial to her husband, William R. McKenney. The basement of the building was designated for Black citizens, and the upper floors for Whites. In February and March 1960, the segregated library facilities became the site of civil rights protests at which the Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, the Rev. R. G. Williams, Mrs. Cassie L. Walker and a number of college and high school students were arrested.[5] William and Clara McKenney's daughter, Virginia McKenney Claiborne, wrote two letters to Mayor Walter Edens urging the city council to desegregate the library.[6]

Electoral history

  • 1894; McKenney was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives with 48.05% of the vote, defeating Republican Robert Taylor Thorp, Independents J. Haskins Hobson and Lee Thornton, and Populist B.R. Horner; however, Thorp successfully contested the results and was seated.


  1. ^ The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. 16. Clifton, NJ: J. T. White. 1893–1984. p. 26. hdl:2027/uc1.c3545640.
  2. ^ Brock, R. A. (1888). Virginia and Virginians : Eminent Virginians, Executives of the Colony of Virginia. v. 2. Richmond, Va.: H. H. Hardesty. p. 650. hdl:2027/mdp.39015037177477. OCLC 1484368.
  3. ^ "Claiborne, Virginia Spotswood McKenney". Social Welfare History Project. 2020-11-09. Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  4. ^ Freeman, Anne Hobson (October 1970). "Mary Munford's Fight for a College for Women Co-Ordinate with the University of Virginia". The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 78 (4): 481–491. JSTOR 4247600 – via JSTOR.
  5. ^ Gordon, Robert (March 8, 1960). "11 Negroes Are Arrested At Petersburg Library". Richmond Times-Dispatch. p. 4.
  6. ^ "Library Integration Asked in Petersburg". Richmond Times-Dispatch. April 4, 1960. p. 4.

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
James F. Epes
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
Robert T. Thorp
This page was last edited on 10 May 2021, at 19:29
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