Ernest Allen McKinney Sr. was born on May 5, 1953, in Denver, Colorado, to his parents, Kathryne and Curtis. Ernest was the 3rd child born to this union. From the very first moment he entered the world, Ernest had a care-free, outgoing personality that commanded the attention of anyone who saw him. As demonstrated in almost every single picture of him, Ernest was a happy go lucky young man with a smile that further illuminated his charming personality. Growing up under the guidance of his mother and grandmother, Ernest spent his childhood days with his oldest sister, Debi, and his younger brother, Tommy. Affectionately referred to by the nickname, “Skip”, by his family growing up, they spent countless days together taking family trips across the country, participating in camps and sporting activities, and anything else that would keep them busy and engaged. His sister, Debi, will always remember him as being a man full of potential, him being a people person, and his gift of gab.
Ernest received his formal education in Denver Public Schools. He attended Barrett and Hallett Elementary Schools. During his elementary school years, Ernest developed a love for music and public speaking. He took up playing the clarinet and participated in opportunities that allowed him to fine-tune his singing, instrument and speaking abilities. He attended Smiley Middle School and later went on to pursue his high school education, graduating from East High School in 1971. During his time as a student at East, Ernest was the recipient of winning both the Woolcott and Woodbury Awards, a speech competition that goes back over 130 years in the history of the school’s existence and a historic accomplishment for an African American student during that time.
Ernest professed his love for the Lord at an early age and was baptized at the age of 6 by the late Pastor, Wendell Theodore Liggins in 1959. In his younger years at Zion, Ernest participated in the children’s choir, children’s usher board, and many other church related activities. Ernest and his sister were known for their spirit-filled oratorical and liturgical reenactment of 'The Creation'. It was through these activities and his regular participation as a young child that the foundation of faith in God was laid in his life. In fact, Ernest could speak and recite scripture with so much conviction and feeling that there were many who were certain that he was going to be a preacher one day.
During and after high school, Ernest began to explore his love for the entertainment industry. He sang with local music groups, bands, and was known for his smooth vocals. Ernest was also a sharp dresser. Not only did he know how to put an outfit together, but he also wore them well. With his natural singing ability, dapper appearance, and that captivating smile, he certainly became a magnet for the ladies.
In his adult years, Ernest also developed a passion for entrepreneurship which complimented his passion for entertainment. His early entrepreneurial endeavors included becoming the owner and operator of the Jean Joint, located in the historic 5 Points, customized skate accessories he sold at the Park Hill Skate Spa, and Founding Mahogany Enterprises and Acajou Design; through which he advocated for and promoted black local entertainment talent, especially models due to the lack of black representation in commercials, advertisements, and all media outlets. He and then sweetheart, Linda Jackson, partnered to create talent shows, concerts, fashion shows, and eventually landed the job of placing models and actors in national ad campaigns, commercials, and films. From light up hats and sun visors to flowers, if there was a market for an item to be sold, you can best believe he was going to try to have his hand in it.
Ernest worked as a Skycap at the former Stapleton International Airport before it's closure in Denver, Colorado. His natural ability to connect with passengers caused him to be known by his colleagues and his children as The Skycap King. He continued working as a Skycap once the airport relocated to its current location, treating passengers like he knew them personally. Ernest never met a stranger.
As a father, his son Ernest Jr. remembers the influence his father had on the community at large, and how he desired to take follow in the footsteps of his mother to be a culture advocate in Park Hill and 5 Points communities. He will always cherish the passion and resilience his father had for discovering talent and creating platforms for black people to have equal opportunity and consideration. A memory that will never fade for either of his children is the fact that he was referred to by many as the honorary Mayor of Welton.
His daughter Lynette fondly remembers how her father’s love for entertainment and entrepreneurship was largely responsible for her introduction and induction into the modeling, fashion, and entertainment industries. As a result, he landed her several jobs as a print ad and commercial model. In her adulthood, she even took a page from his book of entrepreneurship and launched her own Casting Company post undergrad in Atlanta, Ga. in 2010.
Ernest departed this life in the early hours of the morning on September 8th, 2021. To his children and others who knew him, he will always live on in their hearts and minds for his colorfully grand, limitless imagination, his charisma, charm, business prowess and resilience, his childlike forgiveness, and genuine, free-spirited nature.
Ernest is preceded in death by his mother, Kathryne Lewise Allen McKinney, his grandmother, Ernestine Claudia Jones, grandfather, Orlo H. Allen; his brother, Thomas Earl Sylvester McKinney, his sister, Rebecca Elaine Keith; and grandchildren, Jeremiah McKinney and Justin A. McKinney; and great-nephew, JoVaughn J. Essex-Tarver.
He leaves to cherish his memory, his son, Ernest (Kimberly) McKinney of Denver, Colorado; daughter, Lynette L. McKinney, of Atlanta, Georgia; his One in a Million, Linda Jackson-McKinney of Atlanta, Georgia; one sister, Deborah (Laurence) Tarver of Denver, Colorado; church sister, Naomi (Garry) Turks; His grandchildren, Joseph McKinney, Braelin McKinney, Jailen A. McKinney, and Jayden A. See' McKinney all of Denver, Colorado; great grandchildren, ShiLori McKinney, Zavah McKinney, Julian McKinney, and Tiajah Davison all of Denver, Colorado; niece, Nichelle C. Tarver, of Aurora, Colorado, and nephew Brian L. Tarver of Denver, Colorado; a host of cousins, great nieces and nephews, extended family, business associates and friends.