During the month of February, in honor of Black History Month, the NCHSAA website will feature information about African Americans who have made major contributions to the great tradition of high school sports in our state. We hope you find these both entertaining and informative. Our thanks to Rick Strunk, former NCHSAA Associate Commissioner, for his research into many of these articles.
Jonathan McKee, Sr. was many things during his adult life, but perhaps the most impactful of those titles was the term, Coach. Coach McKee was a Retired U.S. Army Reserves Major, serving in that capacity from 1954-1980. He worked in Virginia as a teacher and coach for several years before joining the staff at Greensboro’s Dudley High School, where he was a Head Football, Basketball and Golf Coach, also serving as the school’s athletic director for a time.
McKee was an outstanding and well-respected coach, earning Coach of the Year award in 1976 in the Central 4A Conference and Division 8. His Basketball team brought home the 1960-1961 Basketball District and State Championships, compiling a 22-2 record. In 1963, he led Dudley to a state runner-up finish and conference championship on the hardwood.
Then on the diamond, Dudley’s 1964 baseball team won the conference championship. Just one year later, in 1965, his baseball team took the 4A State Championship in the NCHSAC. McKee’s football teams posted a 90-46-3 record, winning conference championship in 1966 and 1967, and advancing to the state finals in 1966.
Outside of his accolades for coaching, McKee was a well-respected community leader, earning the Emporia Extravaganza Award in 1984 and a Carolina Peace Maker Award. He served on the Board of Directors for the NC Coaches Association from 1978-1980 and was once selected as the NCCA Man of the Year. In 1975, he was recognized by the NCCA for 20 years of outstanding service. In addition to his role at the school and in the coaching community, McKee was a pillar of his church community, serving as a deacon at United Institutional Baptist Church.
McKee saw Dudley through a period when the school merged, along with other black high schools in the NCHSAC, into the NCHSAA and desegregation. Jonah McKee, one of his sons, told the Greensboro News & Record in an interview after his father’s death, that it wasn’t uncommon for his father to get a phone call in the middle of the night from the police needing help during the downtown civil unrest in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. “They’d call him and ask him to come down and mediate,” Jonah told the News & Record’s Ed Hardin back in 2006. “They needed a man who could come and calm things down. Jonathan would do that. He was more than a football coach. He was … a great man.”
Coach McKee will be inducted in the NCHSAA Hall of Fame posthumously in August with the Class of 2021.