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James "Jimmie" McKee papers

Identifier: MS0336

Scope and Contents

The James "Jimmie" McKee Papers consist of material concerning McKee’s life and his career as a night club owner, philanthropist as well as his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. In 1944, Jimmy McKee established the first night club for African-Americans in the Charlotte area. His collection includes not only papers generated as a result of his life’s work, but also a large assortment of photographs. As a successful business owner, he acquired the funds to make a variety of generous contributions for the advancement of racial equality, as well as to both political parties. His philanthropic efforts included funding for the YMCA, Johnson C. Smith University and fostering the career of radio personality Eugene S. Potts (a.k.a.) “Genial Gene,” to name a few. In addition to documentary and photographic materials in this collection, there are also a few three-dimensional items, including plaques, a trophy and party favors commemorating the Excelsior Club’s 40th anniversary in 1984.


  • Creation: 1944 - 1985


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

James “Jimmie” Robert McKee* was born on December 16, 1912 in Laurens county, SC to John and Violet Miller McKee, his family moved to Charlotte a few years after his birth. He was the second of ten children, but was orphaned by the time he was fourteen. At that point, he left school to work and provide for his siblings. On January 13, 1939, McKee married Minnie Jackson. One of the jobs he had was as the head mail clerk with Horton Motor Lines. In addition, he also tended a bar at some of the finest night clubs and country clubs in the Charlotte area. This experience gave him the idea of starting a club for African-Americans in Charlotte, since blacks were barred from white establishments. In 1944, he bought a house on Beatties Ford Road and converted it into a club with dining and banqueting rooms, as well as a bar. In addition to serving as a place for entertainment and relaxation, the Excelsior also served as a meeting place for officials in both the Democratic and Republican parties and during the tumultuous Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the Excelsior was a place for politicians of both races to meet as equals. His declining health forced McKee to sell the club in November of 1984, though McKee remained active with the establishment, tending the bar and serving as a business consultant for a few months after the sale. McKee’s last major activity at the Excelsior was the fortieth anniversary celebration, which took place on November 16, 1984. After starting the Excelsior in 1944, success came steadily for McKee and he eventually became not only one of Charlotte’s leading businessmen, but also one of its more generous philanthropists, giving money to Johnson C. Smith University (he established the 100 Club as a vehicle for university fund-raising), the NAACP, the Colored NC Police Association, the Democratic party, and the YMCA, to name a few. In addition, he was a leader in advancing racial progress by pressuring golf courses to open their doors to African-Americans; and also encouraging the careers of African-Americans at WGIV, a local radio station. In 1957, the Charlotte Post newspaper recognized McKee as its “Man of the Year.” During his life, he was also a Shriner, a Mason and a member of the Elks Lodge. McKee died of cancer, on July 25, 1985 at the age of 72. A portrait of Mr. McKee is on display in the periodicals section on the second floor of the J. Murrey Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte. The First Baptist Church-West, 1801 Oaklawn Avenue, Charlotte, has a portrait of Mrs. McKee.


1 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Jimmie McKee was the founder of the Excelsior Club, the most influential social club for African Americans in Charlotte, NC, from its establishment in 1944 to its sale in 1984. Includes photographs, advertising material, programs, and booklets.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Estate of Jimmie and Minnie McKee, c/o H. Parks Helms, 2003.

Processing Information

Processed by Robert A. McInnes, 2005.

James "Jimmie" McKee papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte NC 28223 United States

About this Site

Finding aids are guides to archival collections, including manuscripts, university records, and oral history collections. These guides help you find physical collections which can be viewed in the Dalton Reading Room on the 10th floor of Atkins Library. A small number of finding aids link to digital content online. Please contact us to learn more or to schedule an appointment:

Special Collections and University Archives
J. Murrey Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
(704) 687-1170
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