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Former academy supe who oversaw female inclusion dies at 84

Jan. 7, 2014 - 07:01PM   |  
Adm. Kinnaird McKee, who died Dec. 30, served as Naval Academy superintendent from 1975 to 1978.
Adm. Kinnaird McKee, who died Dec. 30, served as Naval Academy superintendent from 1975 to 1978. (Navy)
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Kinnaird McKee, an admiral who oversaw the integration of women into the Naval Academy in the mid-1970s and later served as the second officer to head the nuclear Navy, died Dec. 30 at his Annapolis, Md., home after a long illness. He was 84.

His death was confirmed by the Naval Submarine League, which named him a “Distinguished Submariner” in 2011.

The 1951 academy grad returned to Annapolis 24 years later as the superintendent and oversaw the admission of women into the brigade in July 1976, a step all of the services had opposed before being overruled by lawmakers.

The swearing in of 81 female midshipmen provoked a media frenzy. But the women eventually proved their merit — overall, they received slightly higher grades than their male peers.

McKee was a Cold War-era submarine leader who took the reins of the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program when the father of the nuclear Navy, Adm. Hyman Rickover, was forced into retirement in 1982 after 64 years on active duty.

He commanded the attack submarine Dace and the experimental midget sub X-1. He was in charge of Submarine Group 8, directing operations during the 1973 Yom Kippur war in the Middle East.

In addition to integrating women, McKee’s academy legacy includes curriculum changes and expanding midshipmen training aboard sailboats. The former collegiate sailor was honored as a distinguished graduate in 2006.

McKee retired from the Navy in 1988 after a 41-year career and served on corporate boards of utility companies, pursuing sailing and model building in his free time.

McKee is survived by his second wife, Patti, six children and 14 grandchildren. His memorial service is scheduled for Jan. 28 in the academy chapel.

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