Admiral Kinnaird R. McKee passed away on December 30, 2013 in Annapolis, MD at the age of eighty-four following an extended illness. Admiral McKee, a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was known for his extraordinary submarine career, his leadership as Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy and as the man who took the helm of the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Power program after the retirement of Admiral H. G. Rickover. Admiral McKee was born on August 14, 1929 in Louisville, Kentucky, and raised in Memphis, Chicago and Dallas before his family moved to Gulfport Mississippi where he attended the Gulf Coast Military Academy and first learned to sail. From GCMA, he entered the Naval Academy in 194 7 with the class of 1951. Still an avid and competitive sailor, he was on the varsity sailing team.
Admiral McKee was born on August 14, 1929 in Louisville, Kentucky, and raised in Memphis, Chicago and Dallas before his family moved to Gulfport Mississippi where he attended the Gulf Coast Military Academy and first learned to sail. From GCMA, he entered the Naval Academy in 194 7 with the class of 1951. Still an avid and competitive sailor, he was on the varsity sailing team.
After his graduation and Navy commissioning in 1951, he was assigned to the destroyer USS MARSHALL (DD-676) where he served during the Korean War. Following his duty on the MARSHALL, he met and married Betty Ann Harris from Montgomery Alabama, and began his submarine career.
After serving on diesel-powered submarines PICUDA (SS382), SEA CAT (SS-399) and MARLIN (SST-2), Lieutenant McKee took command of the experimental hydrogen peroxide-powered submarine USS X-1 as Officer in Charge. He subsequently was accepted into the second nuclear power school class and later assigned to the commissioning crew of USS SKIP JACK (SSN-585), the first of a class of high-speed, highly maneuverable attack submarines. As SKIPJACK’s engineer, he worked closely with the Royal Navy in the nuclear training of the Royal Navy’s first nuclear submarine, HMS DREADNOUGHT.
Lieutenant Commander McKee followed this tour with assignments as Executive Officer of USS NAUTILUS (SSN-571) and USS SAM HOUSTON (SSBN-609).
Commander McKee was later assigned to the Office of Naval Reactors working for Admiral Rickover. Upon completion of this assignment, Commander McKee took command of the nuclear submarine USS DACE (SSN-607) and DACE earned a fleet-wide reputation for exceptional performance over the next 3 years.
With orders to the Navy Staff in Washington, Captain McKee founded the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Executive Panel and became its first Director, charged with providing the CNO with expert outside advice and a systematic method for setting future Navy policy and goals. While in this job, he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.
Rear Admiral McKee was next assigned command of Submarine Group 8 and NATO’s submarine forces in the Mediterranean,
during a time when U.S. submarines maintained a critical role in monitoring Soviet Mediterranean Fleet operations in such crises as the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the Cyprus Conflict of 1974.
Rear Admiral McKee then assumed command of the United States Naval Academy as the 48th Superintendent in 1975. As Superintendent, Rear Admiral McKee refined the diverse curriculum and provided leadership for successful entry and integration of the first women midshipmen at the Naval Academy. During his time in Annapolis, he was promoted to Vice Admiral.
Vice Admiral McKee assumed command of the Third Fleet in Hawaii followed by duty on the Navy Staff as the first Director of Naval Warfare, quickly followed by his reassignment as the Director of Naval Reactors following the retirement of Admiral Hyman Rickover. McKee was awarded his fourth star at this time and spent the next seven years leading the Navy’s program for development and maintenance of the nuclear power plants in all U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and submarines. Design work for the SEA WOLF class of fast attack submarines was initiated and funded during his tour.
In 1988, Admiral McKee completed his extraordinary 41-year naval career and retired to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he pursued his love of sailing, and boat model building. His post Navy career included serving on the board of directors of PECO and ENTERGY corporations and providing engineering and management consulting services to several major engineering firms.
Following the death of his first wife Betty Ann in 1997, Admiral McKee met and married Patti Bailey Kirkpatrick in 1999. Admiral and Mrs. McKee continued to live in Oxford and Easton on the eastern shore of Maryland until the summer of 2013, when they moved to Annapolis, MD.
Admiral McKee was honored in 2006 as a Naval Academy Distinguished Graduate. The Naval Submarine League also honored him in 2011 with its Distinguished Submariner Award.
Admiral McKee is survived by his beloved wife Patti Bailey McKee, son James H. McKee of Easton, MD, daughter Anne A. McKee of Burke, VA and Mercer Trapp of Augusta, GA, as well as Patti’s children Patti Kirkpatrick of Phoenix, AZ, Mac Kirkpatrick of Glenmore, PA, Lynn Demast of Santa Barbara, CA and Andrew J. Kirkpatrick of San Jose, CA and 14 grandchildren.
A memorial service was held at 1 pm on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 in the main chapel at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Admiral McKee’s name may be made to the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation at 410-295-4115.