Originally from Springfield, Illinois, Mrs. McKinley first worked at Alton in 1941 as an aide to mental patients. After brief training, she went to Manteno State Hospital in 1944 as a dental assistant. She was allowed to work only with a Black doctor and Black patients. She next worked at Fort Sheridan after which she came to Champaign with her husband in 1963. She said in 1983, "My mother taught me how to work. There were seven brothers and sisters. We worked side by side with my mother. She taught us to cook, clean, can, and garden."