Verna Jackson McKenna, historian and preservationist, was born on August 11, 1890, to John W. and Minnie (Hamilton) Jackson in Bastrop County, Texas. She graduated from the College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Women's University) in Denton in 1911 and did postgraduate study at Sul Ross State Teachers College. She taught in public school from 1911 to 1914 and in 1918–19. On June 16, 1913, she married Gerald W. McKenna; they had two daughters. The family moved to Harlingen in 1927. From 1927 to 1971 Mrs. McKenna was an active leader in civic, cultural, and church groupsin Harlingen and the larger lower Rio Grande valley area. Her published writings include Old Point Isabel Lighthouse (1952), Fifty Years of Methodism in Harlingen (1960), and The Saga of Six-Shooter Junction (1960). She wrote numerous articles for Texas Parade, Holland's Magazine, and Texas Farming and Citriculture and was a feature writer for the Harlingen Valley Morning Star (1928–38). In 1928 she became a board member of the Harlingen Public Library. She served on the board for the next forty-three years and became chairman and librarian in 1939. She was librarian at Harlingen Army Air Field (see HARLINGEN AIR FORCE BASE) from 1943 to 1946. Her lifelong interest in Texana was exemplified by the Texas Room, in which the walls were lined with both contemporary and rare books about Texas. She retired from the library in 1971. After her retirement the genealogical section in the Texas Room was formally dedicated by the Lon C. Hill Memorial Library Board as the Verna McKenna Genealogical Room. Also in 1971 Mrs. McKenna received the Harlingen City Commission plaque of appreciation for outstanding service and the mayor's citation for community service. She was named to the Harlingen Historical Hall of Fame, and in 1972 she was chosen "First Lady of South Texas" by the Rio Grande Rotary Club and District 593 Rotary International. She was a charter member and president of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Historical Association. She was also a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and a Methodist. Verna McKenna died on May 24, 1976, in Gadsden, Alabama.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.
Ina M. O. McAdams, Texas Women of Distinction (Austin: McAdams, 1962). Valley Morning Star, May 25, 1976. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Lon C. Hill Memorial Library; Harlingen, Texas). Who's Who of American Women, 1961–62.
Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“McKenna, Verna Jackson,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: