McKinney, William D. "Bill"

1901-1995 | Fire Chief, Alaska Railroad

William David "Bill" McKinney was born February 7, 1901 in Sulphur Wells, Kentucky. He left home at an early age and joined the U.S. Army. While in the service as a private, he was accused of punching his sergeant in the nose, and was given the choice of a dishonorable discharge or service in Alaska. He chose Alaska. He first arrived in Fort William A. Seward at Haines, near the head of the Lynn Canal in southeastern Alaska, in 1918.[1] "Bill," as he was known, was soon transferred to Anchorage, where the military detachment was in need of his skills as a bugler.

In Anchorage McKinney met Alice Ellen Loftquist, who had come there with her parents in 1915 from Portland, Oregon, where she was born on March 21, 1904. Alice's father, Carl Loftquist, built the Kenai Hotel, the first rooming house in Anchorage. It was located on the north side of 4th Avenue between B and C Streets. C.A. “Grandma” Loftquist, Alice's mother, operated the hotel while Carl plied his trade as plumber. C.A. Loftquist died in 1929, and Carl died in Portland, Oregon in March 1934. Mrs. Loftquist is buried in Tract 3, Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery and Carl is buried in Portland, Oregon.[2]

William McKinney and Alice Loftquist were married in Anchorage in 1920, and lived in various locations prior to owning their own home. For a period of time, he worked for the Alaska Railroad at Moose Creek and at Girdwood. He next lived on the McCain Ranch, on Spenard Road near what was then called Deadman's Curve, and tried a hand at raising turkeys, which was unsuccessful because a loose dog killed all of the birds. In 1929, he acquired a new truck and, with partner Jerry Sigmund, started the Federal Transfer Company, doing general hauling of materials including coal and wood.

In the meantime McKinney's family kept growing, and he needed steady employment. He was offered a job with the Alaska Railroad again, this time in the mechanical department shops. He then worked as relief man in the fire department and in a matter of years worked his way up to being the railroad's fire chief.

In 1934, the McKinneys acquired a homestead at Fireweed Lane that ran from Arctic Boulevard to B Street. A cabin on the homestead became their new home, and they constantly kept improving the home and property.

McKinney campaigned for the establishment of the Anchorage Independent School District. On May 13, 1947, an independent school district was approved by the voters and a five-member district school board was elected. He was elected to its board of directors in 1949-1950. The Anchorage Independent School District is now called the Anchorage School District.[3] Two schools were built during his term and land was purchased for the first school in Spenard.[4]

McKinney became active over the years in helping to develop the Spenard Volunteer Fire Department. As fire chief of the Alaska Railroad, McKinney helped form a mutual aid pact between the City of Anchorage, U.S. Army, and the Alaska Railroad to allow for fire protection in Spenard. He was also instrumental in obtaining fire equipment for the Spenard Volunteer Fire Department.

Bill McKinney retired from the Alaska Railroad in 1952 after twenty-seven years of government service. Not one to remain idle, he started a landscaping business, McKinley Garden Service, and operated it for ten years. In 1962 he sold out his business, and he and Alice McKinney moved to Forest Grove, Oregon.[5]

McKinney was a lifetime member of the Anchorage Elks Club, past president of the American Legion, and a member of the Pioneers of Alaska. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Spenard Public Utilities District (later merged into the Greater Anchorage Area Borough), and served on its board of directors.

Bill and Alice McKinney were one of only two couples married in Anchorage in 1920, the year of the incorporation of Anchorage as a city. In 1970, they received recognition for this from Anchorage Mayor George M. Sullivan as part of the commemoration of the city's 50th Anniversary celebration of its incorporation on November 23, 1920.

Alice McKinney died on December 15, 1971 in Oregon. Soon after her death, McKinney moved to Scottsburg, Indiana to be with his widowed sisters.

William D. McKinney, Sr. died at the Veterans Hospital in Portland, Oregon on September 9, 1995 at the age of ninety-five. He was buried at the Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. His first wife, Alice, was also buried at Willamette National Cemetery.[6]

In addition to his second wife, Mary Frances, he was survived by four of their five children: William, Jr., Clara, Herbert, and Shirley. Daughter Eva Ellen Snyder died in 1980.12, 2016).



[1] In 1922, the name of this military post was changed to Chilkoot Barracks, after the name of the Chilkoot tribe of Tlingit Indians living in the area. In 1904, the U.S. War Department established Fort William H. Seward at Portage Cove, four tenths of a mile south of Haines, as an infantry post during the Klondike gold rush to observe in-bound traffic over the Dalton Trail and three other historic trails—the Chilkoot, Chilkat, and White passes.   After the Klondike gold rush ended, a token force of two companies was stationed there until the remilitarization of Alaska in 1939-1940. The post was abandoned in 1943. Claus-M. Naske, Alaska: A History, Third Edition (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011), 174.

[2] Obituary, C.A. “Grandma” Loftquist, Anchorage Daily Times, March 11, 1929, 5; C.A.[Loftquist], Anchorage Daily Times, March 8, 1929, 8; Obituary, Carl Loftquist, Anchorage Daily Times, March 29, 1934, 4; and Alice Ellen McKinney, National Cemetery Administration, Nationwide Grave Locator, (accessed September 12, 2016). .

[3] John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 166-168; Evangeline Atwood, Anchorage: All-America City (Portland, OR: Binfords & Mort, 1957), 110; Helve Enatti, “Anchorage Public Schools, 1915-1951: A Thirty-Six Year School District Development Study,” M.A. thesis, University of Alaska, May 1967, 356; and Organizational history, Guide to the Anchorage Independent School District Records, 1953-1955 (HMC-0758), Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK (accessed September 12, 2016).

[4] Obituary, William McKinney, Sr., Anchorage Daily News, September 14, 1995, B-6.

[5] Ibid.

[6] William David McKinney, Oregon State Library, State of Oregon Death Index, 1931-1941, Microfilm Edition (Salem, OR: Oregon State Library, n.d.), Oregon Death Index, 1898-2008 [database on-line], (accessed August 28, 2016); William David McKinney, National Cemetery Administration, Nationwide Graveside Locator, (accessed September 12, 2016); and Alice Ellen McKinney, National Cemetery Administration, Nationwide Graveside Locator, (accessed September 12, 2016).



This biographical sketch of William D. McKinney is based on an essay which originally appeared in John Bagoy’s Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage, AK: Publications Consultants, 2001), 166-168. See also the William D. McKinney file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 5, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage, AK. Edited by Mina Jacobs, 2012.  Note:  edited, revised, and expanded by Bruce Parham, September 12, 2016.

Preferred citation: Bruce Parham, ed., “McKinney, William D. ‘Bill’,” Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940,

Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website,