Mr. McKinney launched his career in advertising in 1957 at Howard Merrell, an agency in Raleigh, N.C., fresh out of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he had earned a bachelor's degree in business. His earliest campaign helped introduce MasterCard in the mid-Atlantic region.
Hall of Fame inductee
By 1968, he co-founded the Raleigh-based McKinney & Silver agency (now known as McKinney, and based in Durham, N.C.) with the late Michael J. Silver. Almost 20 years later, in 1989, Mr. McKinney was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame at his alma mater, UNC's school of journalism and communication.
"He was a very rare person in our business ... not only a brilliant creative, but also a brilliant strategist," said Brad Brinegar, McKinney chairman-CEO. "There's a quote of Chick's that I just love: 'I don't mind being off the wall as long as we're not off the mark.'"
When Mr. McKinney attended his namesake agency's 35th anniversary celebration festivities a few years ago, he was intrigued by the agency's evolution, in particular its move into the digital space, Mr. Brinegar said.
"He very much respected that it was a very modern expression of how he would have built the business had he stayed connected," Mr. Brinegar said. But, "he passed it on and went on to do a bunch of other interesting things in North Carolina."
After Mr. McKinney retired from the advertising world in 1990, he and his wife, Suzanne Reeves McKinney, worked to restore Devotion, a 1930s historic property located in the mountains of Surry County, N.C.