A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Accession Number 42829
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Virginia. Governor (1890-1894 : McKinney). Executive papers of Governor Phillip W. McKinney, 1889-1893 (bulk 1890-1893). Accession 41887. State government records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.
Acquired prior to 1905.
Phillip Watkins McKinney, son of Charles and Martha Guerrant McKinney, was born on March 17, 1832 at New Store in Buckingham County, Virginia. McKinney graduated Hampden-Sydney College in 1851 before studying law under Judge Brockenbrough at Washington College. Following his education, he opened a law practice in Buckingham County and, in 1854, married Anne Fleming Christian. The marriage produced one son, Robert Christian McKinney. McKinney officially entered politics in 1857 with his election to the House of Delegates where he served until resigning in 1861 to join the Army of Northern Virginia. A Captain in Company K of the 4th Cavalry, he was seriously wounded at the Battle of Brandy Station and left the military in 1864, briefly returning to the House of Delegates before opening a law firm in Farmville in 1865. Widowed in 1859, he re-married in 1884 to Anna Clay Lyle who gave birth to a daughter, Frankie Irving, in 1887.
McKinney's political career following his first term in the House of Delegates mixed achievement and failure. He served as the Commonwealth's Attorney for Prince Edward county briefly in the 1860's and 70's, and for longer terms in the 1880's. Unable to immediately repeat his earlier success, he failed to win election in several campaigns including a U.S. Congressional race in 1872, the House of Delegates in 1875, State Attorney General in 1881 and Governor in 1885 before successfully campaigning for the Governorship in 1889. Governor from 1890 to 1894, McKinney focused on improving the state's economy and strengthening the Virginia Democratic party. In 1891, he oversaw the passage of Olcott Settlement, a reorganization of the Government debt that provided the means for the State to extricate itself from a worsening financial situation. McKinney also addressed problems in the state fishing industry with passage of a bill to regulate the shellfish harvesting that included the creation of Shellfish Commission to regulate natural oyster beds. Although not acted on during his tenure, other ideas initiated under McKinney that would later help to strengthen the Democratic party included curbing the influence of lobbyists and railroads and enacting a state income tax. Retiring from active politics at the conclusion of his governorship, McKinney and his wife retired to Farmville where he died on March 1, 1899. He is buried at Farmville Cemetery.
The Phillip Watkins McKinney Executive papers are arranged chronologically and consist of incoming correspondence during his one term as Governor from December 1889 to December 1893, with additional undated material at the end of the collection. The correspondence in this collection relates to a variety of topics including recommendations for appointment to state positions, state expenses & revenue; and several requests for allocation of convict labor to work on railroad projects.
This collection is arranged into the following series:I: Chronological Files, 1889-1893.
Of note are correspondence that address the issue of state bonds and the settlement of the public debt. These include a letter from Thomas S. Martin congratulating the Governor on the debt negotiation (20 November 1891), and appeals by constituents financially burdened by the reorganization of the debt (2 March 1892) and (9 July 1892). Also included are correspondence addressing the need for resolution of the state boundaries. Support for a joint commission to establish the boundary with Maryland is contained in a letter from Elihu E. Jackson, governor of Maryland (11 March 1890). Also of note is transcription of a proposition by former Virginia Governor Fitzhugh Lee to fix the boundary line with Tennessee (27 August 1890).
Arranged chronologically by date of document.
Box 1Folder 11889 December .
Box 1Folder 11890 January - December .
Box 1Folder 21891 January - December .
Box 1Folder 31892 June-December .
Box 1Folder 41893 January .
Box 1Folder 5Undated .