Jack McKinney

Archive page for Jack McKinney
Broadcaster, Columnist and Sport Writer
WCAU 1210 AM and WPEN 950 AM in the 1960s - early '70s
  Daily News - mid 1950s through 1997
Television - Channels 12, 17, 29

Originally posted Monday, August 12, 2002

The material on this page is archived for historical use only. While most of the information is commonly available I post the articles from the print papers since they are so well done.  Some of the content is copyrighted by the original authors 
(Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer).
Photos from the Daily News.


Page Contents:

Daily News Obituary
Philadelphia Inquirer Obituary

1971 picture, that's a typewriter kids, they used to use them before computers.



Several people emailed this site asking that a post be made about the passing of Jack Mckinney.  I picked this one out of the pack.

From Ed O'Neill,
On “Philly Talk” for today’s talk radio news you link to today’s Philadelphia Inquirer article on former radio personality Frank Ford. I am requesting that you also link to the following article in the Philadelphia Daily News http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/news/local/3846478.htm synopsizing the prominent talk radio and print media career of Jack McKinney,  who unfortunately passed away over the weekend. As you probably already know, Jack’s most recent career has been as columnist with the Daily News since the 50s until his retirement a few years ago.  However, in the ‘60s his “Night Talk” radio talk show format program on WCAU-AM went out to over 30 cities! In fact, he is credited in many circles as the originator of the present day talk radio format. 

His reputation on both talk radio and in the print media was his ability to speak authoritatively and intellectually on nearly all subjects as diverse as city politics, the conflicts in Ireland, and  El Salvador, to Opera and Boxing and most other subjects of interest in between. 

Where he differed  from most “cookie-cutter”  talk show “radio personalities” is that he did not just cover and report from behind a microphone. But, he actually went out in the bushes and alleys from Belfast to Central America, and even boxed a few rounds with notables in the early years of his media career.  Perhaps equally important, and fortunate for Philly natives,  he could have very easily pulled up stakes for a more lucrative career and exposure in larger radio and newspaper markets on the heels of his popular radio show, and newspaper column. However, he always valued his Philly roots; and, unlike the plethora of image- driven talk show hosts and media personality want-a-bees, he stayed put. 

There are not many of his kind to come down the pike in talk radio today; and, I suspect there never will. 

Edmond J. “skip” O’Neill

Thanks Ed, I'll archive the appropriate information on the people page soon.  Here's the link to the Inky article.

Daily News Obituary

Posted on Mon, Aug. 12, 2002 in the Philadelphia Daily News, archived here for historic, personal and non-commercial use only.

He championed the underdogs

Jack McKinney 

LARRY MERCHANT was in the Daily News office one July night in 1963 reading the sports wire when an account of a middleweight boxing match in a place called Painesville, Ohio, caught his eye.

The winner by a knockout in the first round was a fighter named Jack McKinney.

Jack McKinney!

Merchant couldn't believe his eyes. Was that his boxing writer? And what was he doing in Ohio, belaboring a palooka named Alvin Green?

Turned out it was his boxing writer, and Green was a palooka with no wins in four professional fights.

McKinney, described in the Painesville newspaper the next day as an "alleged writer," had been secretly training, it turned out, and wanted to test himself against a pro.

Jack McKinney, the "alleged writer" and very possibly Philadelphia's first, last and forever renaissance man, died Saturday. He was 73 and lived in Lafayette Hill.

McKinney, who had a breadth and depth of knowledge to stagger the most erudite scholar, wrote for the Daily News on just about every conceivable subject in a career that spanned 40 years.

Talk show host

In the 1960s, he was the originator and host of a highly regarded and often-quoted radio talk show on WCAU that reached 36 cities.

His raspy voice became familiar to thousands of listeners to his "Night Talk" program, and he has been credited with originating the present-day talk-show format.

"I suppose it's safe to admit now that I idolized McKinney," said Daily News editor Zachary Stalberg. "I can remember lying in bed, listening to his radio show in the dark. I knew then that I wanted to know things the way he did - intimately, passionately and completely."

But McKinney was never content with simply reporting, writing and commenting on the news. He waded into some of the world's most dangerous trouble spots - from Ireland to Latin America - with a passionate commitment to whatever cause he felt best served the underdog.

McKinney spent many months in Northern Ireland during some of the most serious fighting there. He counted Bernadette Devlin, the fiery Irish representative in the British Parliament, and Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, among his friends.

"I've always believed in advocacy journalism," he told Philadelphia Weekly in 1997. "I don't believe anyone is objective in journalism. I think that anyone who claims to be is being hypocritical and downright fraudulent."

"I know what side I'm on, the side of justice."

One of his sons, Brian McKinney, summed up his father's amazing career when he said, "Dad was devoted, committed and involved with the downtrodden in more causes than any man could be in 10 lifetimes."

Another son, Sean, commented, "My father was our biggest hero. The public knew him as a passionate advocate for the underdog and modern-day renaissance man, and we benefited from all these characteristics."

McKinney began his Daily News career by writing sparkling and incisive music criticism under the name of J. Cartin McKinney.

That was the moniker imposed on him by the late Dean McCollough, Daily News editor who hired McKinney as a tender 20-year-old ex-insurance salesman with an extensive opera collection in 1953.

McCollough thought Jack McKinney was too unsophisticated a name for a music critic, and came up with the grander byline.

Staged daredevil stunts

After ditching J. Cartin and becoming Jack McKinney again, he staged a number of daredevil stunts, including entering a cage of circus lions with a pith helmet and a whip; jumping out of an airplane, sparring with Sonny Liston and racing cars around the track at Langhorne.

When he sparred for a couple of rounds of with the imposing Liston, then living in Philadelphia, McKinney wrote, "There was fear in Sonny Liston's eyes, fear that he was going to kill me."

John M. Corcoran, Philadelphia lawyer and longtime McKinney pal, said McKinney "could talk on anything, and talk and talk and talk."

Corcoran, also active in Irish causes, said McKinney was "the leading spokesman for Irish unification in the Philadelphia area - maybe the East Coast."

Larry Merchant, who remade the Daily News sports coverage in 1962, said McKinney "was compassionate and passionate about everything."

"He was the last of the writer-adventurers who got involved in things," said Merchant, now a boxing analyst for HBO.

Merchant said McKinney was the only sports writer he ever knew who would sit in the office and sing operatic arias and recite Shakespeare.

"He was a great reader," said Common Pleas Judge Lisa A. Richette, a longtime McKinney friend.

"I remember his reciting one page of James Joyce's 'Ulysses,' the chapter that deals with the newspaper room.

"I was really impressed with his knowledge of Joyce. That was a side he didn't show people. He had a great memory."

"He had all sorts of arcane knowledge," said F. Gilman Spencer, former Daily News editor.

Shortly after Spencer arrived at the paper in 1975, he brought McKinney, who was tired of writing sports, to the news side where he began writing a column.

"He was a guy who had so many facets," Spencer said. "He could do so many things."

Rolfe Neill, Daily News editor in the 1970s and now retired, said of McKinney, "He was a hell of a writer. He had a great heart and compassion for ordinary folk.

"He was resistant to authority, which showed up in his writing, in the golden output of his typewriter."

"He read several newspapers every day, including the London Times, to keep up with news of Northern Ireland," said Kitty Caparella, a colleague and friend.

"He could talk for hours about the intricacies of Irish politics. He befriended families of Irish hunger strikers and interviewed them when they got out of prison," she said.

Chuck Stone, former Daily News columnist and now chairman of the journalism department at the University of North Carolina, said McKinney was "just a marvelous human being, an audacious columnist."

Frank Dougherty, retired Daily News writer, said when he arrived on the paper at the age of 19 he looked upon McKinney as a kind of "Jack Armstrong."

"He wasn't real," Dougherty said. "He was a radio hero, a comic-book hero. He was a force of nature, like a hurricane. At the same time, to the young reporters, the copy boys, he was the greatest guy in the world."

When he visited Ireland years later, Dougherty said people there were still talking about "the Yank."

" 'He was in the thick of it,' " they said.

Fought legendary brawls

McKinney was a hard drinker in his youth, and engaged in a number of legendary brawls at the old Pen & Pencil Club and other after-hours joints.

Don Elbaum, longtime boxing promoter who staged the Painesville, Ohio, bout, recalled that when he first met McKinney at a fight he was covering, they went to an after-hours club where, after a few drinks, McKinney began singing Irish songs.

"They weren't songs that you ever heard of, like 'Danny Boy.' They were Irish war songs, and he was trying to make everyone in the bar sing with him."

In El Salvador in 1981, McKinney was trying with limited success to convince a rebel chief that he wasn't with the CIA when his photographer, Giovanni Caporaso, said McKinney was a leader in the Irish struggle.

When the rebel chief asked, "What can you tell me about Bernadette Devlin?" McKinney said he knew he was safe.

McKinney's first wife, Doris Kavanaugh McKinney, a singer, died in 1999. He later married Debbie Kordansky.

He is also survived by two other sons, Kevin and Brendan; a daughter, Maura Elizabeth McKinney Mastro; an adopted son, Bentzi McKinney; a brother, George; his companion, Martha Haley, and eight grandchildren.

Services: Memorial and prayer service at 8 p.m. Thursday at St. Augustine Church, 4th and New streets. Friends may call at 6 p.m. Funeral Mass 10 a.m. Friday. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken.

Philadelphia Inquirer Obituary


Jack McKinney, 73, retired Daily News sportswriter
Marc Schogol
Inquirer Staff Writer

Jack McKinney, 73, a longtime Philadelphia Daily News sportswriter and columnist, as well as a television and radio commentator, died Saturday, 12 days after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Mr. McKinney, who retired from the Daily News in 1997 and lived in Lafayette Hill, died at the Chestnut Hill home of a friend.

For nearly a half-century, Mr. McKinney covered and wrote about subjects as varied as boxing and opera. He loved both.

In the mid-1960s and early 1970s, he did talk and interview shows on Channels 12, 17 and 29, as well as WCAU-AM and WPEN-AM radio.

His son, Sean McKinney, said last night that, many times, he would see his father in the bathtub at 7 a.m., racing through and highlighting parts of a book whose author he was to interview in just a few hours.

"He was very well-read, very knowledgeable," Sean McKinney said.

Mr. McKinney was born in the city's Olney section. He graduated from St. Joseph's Prep and Valley Forge Military Academy. He began working for the Daily News in the mid-1950s.

In addition to his son Sean, Mr. McKinney is survived by four other sons, Brian, Kevin, Brendan and Bentzi; a daughter, Maura McKinney Mastro; a brother; and eight grandchildren.

A viewing will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, at Fourth Street near Vine Street, Philadelphia. A memorial service will be held after the viewing at the church.

A Funeral Mass will be said 10 a.m. Friday at the church, and burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken.

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