Samuel McKinney, minister, teacher, and college president, was born on March 19, 1807, in County Antrim, Ireland, the son of Samuel and Margaret (Findley) McKinney, who immigrated with their family to America and settled in Philadelphia in 1812. As a student at the University of Pennsylvania, McKinney changed his major study from medicine to theology. Upon graduating in 1832 he went to Illinois, where he served as pastor of the Oakdale Covenanter Church from 1834 to 1840 and did a great deal of missionary work among the Indians and the "backwoods settlers." For the next two or three years he taught and preached in Shelby County, Tennessee. He gradually gave up ministerial work, however, to devote his entire time to teaching. In Tennessee he taught in Denmark Academy and was president of West Tennessee College, at Jackson. His next teaching work was as president of Chalmers Institute at Holly Wood, Mississippi. There he met Daniel Baker, a member of the board of trustees of Chalmers Institute. When a few years later Baker moved to Texas and secured a charter for Austin College, he persuaded McKinney to come to Texas to assist him in the organization of the new school. McKinney arrived in Huntsville in February 1850 and almost immediately was elected president of Austin College, a position he held until June 29, 1853, when he returned to Mississippi. During the next nine years he taught in various colleges in Mississippi and Louisiana; but in 1862 he was induced to return to Texas again to become the president of Austin College. This time he held the presidency until 1871. He married Nancy Woodside Todd on July 4, 1836. Five children were born to them. McKinney died at Huntsville on November 27, 1879, and was buried near the building in which Austin College was established.