Oral History Transcript — Dr. Chester McKinney
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Chester McKinney; October 22, 2002
ABSTRACT: Discussion includes his family and education, his association with the Acoustical Society of America, military service and training, his work while director of the Applied Research Laboratories, work on U.S. Navy Committees, teaching at Texas Tech University.
My name is David Blackstock. Today's date is October 22nd, 2002, and we are at Applied Research Laboratories, The University of Texas at Austin (ARL:UT), in the United States of America. The time is 8 minutes after 1:00 p.m., and I am about to interview Chester McKinney for the Acoustical Society of America Technical Committee on Underwater Acoustics and Engineering Acoustics. This is Part B, the present status of the interviewee. Chester, what is your present address?
McKinney: 4305 Farhills Drive, Austin, Texas 78731.
Later (as of 1 March 2003): 1034 Liberty Park Dr., Apt. 251, Austin, Texas 78746.
Blackstock:And your present telephone number?
McKinney:Area code (512) 345-0100.
Blackstock:Who is your present employer?
McKinney:Well, I'm not really employed. I'm retired from Applied Research Laboratories, The University of Texas. I still maintain an office here and am listed as a consultant or something like that.
Blackstock:And what's your present business?
McKinney:My present business at the Laboratory is occasionally reviewing papers, giving occasional talks to the technical staff, and consulting with the executive director, Clark Penrod.
Blackstock:And your present job title? I guess you've already said that.
McKinney:I'm not sure what it is, but I think it's Research Scientist or it may be Consultant.
Blackstock:And how long have you been with Applied Research Laboratories?
McKinney:Well, I first came to work for the Laboratory when it was called the Defense Research Laboratory (DRL) in October of 1946. I was a graduate student at that time.
Blackstock:And what do you do at ARL? What don't you do?
McKinney:I'm not being very organized about this. As I say, I'm retired. I retired as Director in 1980, and since that time I have been a very occasional consultant to them and work on a few projects.
Blackstock:I guess we'll come back to this in a little bit. That concludes Part B, present status of the interviewee, and we'll go to Part C, Acoustical Society of America related questions. What year did you join the ASA, Chester?
McKinney:I joined, I believe, in early 1953. It might have been February or March.
Blackstock:What was your age and profession at the time?
McKinney:At that time I would have been 53 years old. Yes, 53 years old.
McKinney:No. In 1953 I would have been 33 years old.
Blackstock:That sounds a little bit better. Were you born in 1920?
McKinney:I was born in 1920. And at that time (1953), I was leaving the position of teaching physics out at Texas Technological College and coming back to the Lab.
Blackstock:So this was after your student days.
Blackstock:You did not join as a student.
McKinney:No, I did not, I had been working primarily in electromagnetics, microwave, waveguides, radiators, and things in that field. But I had worked in acoustics in the summers of 1950, '51, and '52 at DRL.
Blackstock:Okay. What areas of acoustics were you interested in at the time you joined?
McKinney:At the time I joined, my primary interest was in mine hunting sonar, which is high frequency, high resolution, short range sonar. And this was Navy sponsored work. I also, a little earlier, had interest in very low frequency in the audio and sub-audio field of acoustic sensors for Naval mines.
Blackstock:What were your reasons for joining the Acoustical Society?
McKinney:I didn't really have a choice. My boss was Richard Lane, who had been a member of the Acoustical Society for a long time, and in fact he may already by that time have served on the Executive Council. Actually, the day before I started to work full time for the Lab — I worked for them on a part-time basis before — we had a meeting, and he told me that he wanted me to join the Acoustical Society and, furthermore, he wanted me to attend the fall meeting (in Cleveland, I believe), which was some six months away, and present a paper at that meeting. I did both of those things. I did attend the meeting [Cleveland, 15-17 Oct 1953] and did present a paper. As a matter of fact, he handed me, in my office early on in my employment, an application form which he had already filled out and he had signed, and when I had signed, he said, "Make out a check and send it to the Acoustical Society." Herb Erf [ASA Treasurer, 1050-67] or whoever was the treasurer of the Society.
Blackstock:Herb Erf was treasurer I suspect. Well, we've already covered the next question, was there anybody who encouraged you to join the ASA, if so who, and that's Richard Lane. Maybe you ought to say who Richard Lane was at DRL, what was his position?
McKinney:Okay. Richard was an Assistant Director at the DRL. Dr. C. P. Boner, Paul Boner, who was later President of the Acoustical Society of America [1963-64], was the director from 1945 until his retirement in 1965. And Richard had joined the staff of the Lab in about 1946, I think, and it was through him that the Laboratory got involved in acoustics work for the Navy.
Blackstock:Okay. What ASA committees were you, or are, a member of? So you might just run through those if you can remember them all.
McKinney:No, that's not hard to do. I was a charter member of the Technical Committee on Underwater Acoustics. And our first meeting — the first meeting of any of the technical committees — was in 1956 at the June meeting at Harvard. I believe that was also the joint meeting with ICA, and I was one of the charter members at that time. The directory of the Acoustical Society lists me as the First Chairman at the 1960 date. I'm not sure I was the First Chairman, but I must have been an early one — and I'm not sure we had a Chairman before then. The Technical Committee program, was just getting organized, and Larry Batchelder was really the driving force behind doing that.
Blackstock:Okay. Now you've served on some other committees like the Rules Committee. I mean Medals and Awards. I don't mean Rules.
McKinney:Yes, I've served on some other committees all right. In connection with that first committee, I think that one of the things that was important that we did at that time, in forming the Committee on Underwater Acoustics, was to bring in people doing work in that field into membership in the Acoustical Society of America. Up to that time there had been very few papers published in the Journal of Underwater Acoustics (JUA), and yet a lot of work had been done during the war and people were doing a lot of work on underwater sound after the war. So I had a long mailing list that I sent to each of the activities that were doing underwater sound research, telling them about the Acoustical Society Meeting coming up and inviting them to send representatives. I think that was very effective. We also, at a very early stage, started having special sessions and, as soon as we had the papers in for the special sessions, and before any announcement and any official program, I would mail out copies of those special sessions in underwater sound to all of these activities. I think our list included maybe a hundred different activities. I think that was very useful in getting people brought into the Acoustical Society rather than perhaps joining other societies such as IRE or IEEE.
Blackstock:It's amazing to think that the — we're so used now to the Underwater Sound and allied committees like Engineering Acoustics being such a very large part of the Acoustical Society, it's hard to imagine the Acoustical Society without that being the case.
McKinney:As far as other Technical Committees, I served for quite some time on the Engineering Acoustics Committee, but I don't recall that I contributed anything at all to that committee except attending. In terms of Administrative Committees, I was a member of the Medals and Awards Committee for some time, and served as Chairman for a brief period of time. And then I also served on the Long Range Planning Committee, and I think that I was reasonably active or responsible for the establishment of three other committees during the time that I was either Vice President or President of the Society. These were the Committee on Archives, Committee on Public Relations, and Committee on Tutorials. And we were very fortunate that the first chairperson of each of those committees did an excellent job and got them off to a good start, and so they're firmly established. I also served as the Local Chairman when the Acoustical Society met in Austin. I think that was 1975. One of the wonderful things about the Society is that the Society and Executive Council are very open to suggestions, and so at the time we were holding the meeting in Austin — we held meetings in Austin in '54, '64, '75 I guess it was, and I was the chairman that year (1975) — I proposed to the Executive Council that we incorporate a few new things, changes in the program, and they were very receptive to this. One of these was to have a plenary session rather than have a banquet because we got such poor attendance at banquets when we held them. The first time we did that was the time that Leo Beranek got the Gold Medal, and he also gave a talk at that plenary session. Other things we introduced at that time were the poster sessions and paper copying service, and in a very modest way we introduced the Tuesday and Thursday cocktail party hour after the close of the technical sessions. This was done primarily in order to keep people nearby so that they would attend the Technical Committee meetings that were held at night. And that has been a policy since that time. Of course, our Tuesday and Thursday conversation hours, as you might call them, were very modest, nothing like as lavish as they are today. The important thing is that the Acoustical Society is receptive to suggestions for making changes and so an individual, such as a Chairman of a committee, can have an influence.
Blackstock:I think it's remarkable that the Acoustical Society, all of those initiatives that you mentioned have been adopted by the Acoustical Society and grown and flourished. What positions in the ASA did you hold or presently hold?
McKinney:Well, I suppose that would include service on the Executive Council, and I think that was in the period of somewhere around 1975 or something like that [1974-77]. And then, later on, I was Vice President Elect [1983-84], Vice President [1984-85], and then I was later President Elect [1986-87], President [1987-88], and then Past President [1988-89]. And, so anyway, those were positions, plus I've already mentioned that I was a Local Chairman for one meeting here in Austin. And, as far as I can recall, that's all the jobs that I've held.
Blackstock:The meeting in 1964, did you play any role in that meeting held here in Austin?
McKinney:Yes. Well, in 1954, which was the first time we had the Acoustical Society meeting here, Richard Lane served as the Local Chairman and we were holding back-to-back the U.S. Navy Symposium on Underwater Acoustics. And so I chaired that one, or ran that program, while Richard ran the Acoustical Society. That was the first time that the Navy had had their Symposium on Underwater Acoustics at something other than at a Navy Lab. So we did both of those. We did the same thing in 1964, and then, I believe, Boner was the Local Chairman, and again I ran the Symposium on Underwater Acoustics meeting. Then in '75 I served as Local Chairman, because, by this time, we had sort of outgrown our local capacity to handle the U.S. Navy Symposium on Underwater Acoustics. We haven't had that meeting since the '64 meeting.
Blackstock:Are there any ASA members that you met that had especially influenced your future? I suppose you have already mentioned Richard Lane, but others?
McKinney:Well, Richard was the main one. He was my mentor and he influenced me in many ways. I did not meet him through the Acoustical Society. I knew him before that, before I joined the Acoustical Society, but he had great influence on me and did me many, many favors that I cannot recount here and don't have time to recount, or shouldn't. Dr. Boner, Paul Boner, was certainly my boss — he was the Director of the Laboratory for many years, and so I guess we'd say he had some influence on me, but other than that there were so many of them in the Society that had some influence on me. And the main thing was that so many of the people were so very, very friendly to me and were helpful. And these included people like Art Williams and Bob Beyer and Larry Batchelder.
Blackstock:And Bruce Lindsay.
McKinney:And Bruce Lindsay, and just so many people I met. I'm sure each had some influence on me.
Blackstock:Did you ever have much interaction with Murray Strasberg?
McKinney: Oh much, yes, and I believe maybe in '75 that Murray was the president of the Society. But I had known Murray at the Model Basin I guess since about 1953, so we have been friends for a long time. And as I say, there are so many of them in the Society that were helpful to me, friendly, and made me welcome in the Society. I felt very much alone when I went to the first meeting. I think I was the only one from our Laboratory that was there for that meeting, and to present a paper, but I was made very welcome.
Blackstock:Is there anything you care to say about the Acoustical Society past, present, future?
McKinney:Well, I cannot say enough good things about the Acoustical Society. I think it is, hands down, the best professional or scholarly society that I know of. Nothing else comes close. And not only is it, as I've already mentioned, such a friendly and welcoming society, but it does so many things, it covers such a broad spectrum of acoustics and holding meetings and publishing JASA and republishing books and holding tutorials. And all of these things — having patent reviews in the Journal, and the standards work. All of these things are so valuable to the acoustics community as a whole, and it's just a wonderful society, and I still enjoy going to the meetings. My wife, Linda, enjoys them just as much as I do because of the people she sees there and visits with. One thing on the general topic of the Acoustical Society that also fits in that category of the Society’s being receptive to suggestions for doing something: about the time that I was President of the Society one of the things I proposed was that the Society conduct a census of acousticians. We set up an ad hoc committee to do that at essentially no cost to the Society, but with a lot of work from the people who responded to the questionnaires. We did conduct a census that I think provides some useful information to us on the size and geographical distribution of people in the different fields. I don't think that the Society has made much use of that census, but I'm still glad that we did it.
Blackstock:Besides the Acoustical Society, what other professional organizations do you belong to?
McKinney:Well, I've been a member of the IEEE or its predecessor, the IRE, since 1943, I believe. And I'm still a member of the IEEE Ocean Engineering Society and a member of the AAAS — American Association for the Advancement of Science. I am an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Acoustics, which is a British organization, and I'm a member of the Mine Warfare Association, which is a professional group, and I guess that's probably about it.
Blackstock:Okay. Now let's go into past history. This is Section D, the early years, pre-college. When and where were you born?
McKinney:I was born in Cooper, Texas, on January 29th, 1920. That makes it easy to keep up with your age, except I made a mistake a while ago of about twenty years. Cooper is a small rural farming community town in northeast Texas about 80 miles northeast of Dallas. It was a county seat and market town at that time.
Blackstock:County seat of what?
McKinney:Delta County. Delta County at the time that I was growing up had a population of maybe 18,000 people. One number I remember was they had 5,000 students. So it was a fairly heavily populated rural county. The City of Cooper at that time had a population of 2500 and it still does, but the county has changed and dropped in population down to under 4,000 now. And this is because in my youth cotton farming was the big business — or only business in the county — and now it is mostly cattle raising, or something like that, which doesn't require many people.
Blackstock:Before entering college where were some of the places you lived?
McKinney:I lived my entire life up until going to college in Cooper.
Blackstock:And what were your parents' occupations?
McKinney:Well, my mother was a housewife and mother, and she had, before her marriage, been a schoolteacher for about six years. My father was the manager of the local cottonseed oil company. He had the same position for almost forty years.
Blackstock:Was your mother also raised in Cooper?
McKinney:No. My mother was raised in the little town of Blossom, Texas, which is near Paris, Texas, which is about 20 miles from Cooper. She was born in Blossom and was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. She briefly lived in some other small town, but her father died when she was two years old. Anyway, she met my father. My father, by the way, was born in Mississippi in 1882 and came to Texas about 1896 when his family moved to Texas, and he was working for a lumber company in, I guess, the Oklahoma Territory it was at that time. Anyway, or state of Oklahoma, and she was teaching school in Hugo, Oklahoma, and met him as I mentioned, and a year or two later got married and she moved to Cooper.
Blackstock:How would you describe yourself during those early years?
McKinney:Well, I would call myself a very shy and timid person. I was quite small physically, very small, and I was very tight with money. I was a tightwad. I guess I'd call myself a "mama's boy." I was the youngest of three children. And I'm strongly influenced, or was influenced, by growing up in a small country town, and so I was a country boy, and also by the Great Depression. The Depression had a great impact on me as well as everybody else that was living at that time in the U.S.
Blackstock:So you were nine years old in 1929 and you were 13 by the time 1933 came.
McKinney:Yeah. I always wanted to be sure I had some money, and I also, when I could, had a job that paid a salary. And let's say it had a great impact on me. And when I was a kid, I worked on the farm. My father, though he was manager of an oil mill, also did a lot of farming, owned some farms and I worked on those bailing hay and other things, driving teams from one place to another. That was primarily when I was in grade school. Also I delivered newspapers. I also worked afternoons and weekends at a dry goods store.
Blackstock:Do you remember the election of 1932?
McKinney:Oh, I remember the election of 1928 very well, and 1932 as well.
Blackstock:Well, I was thinking of '32 because it was such a sort of a change of direction.
McKinney:Oh yes. I remember the main issues, or some of the main issues of the 1928 election when Hoover won and then the landslide election of Roosevelt in '32. I had an uncle that attended the meeting at the convention in Chicago that nominated Roosevelt. So that was a very big thing, the election of Roosevelt and of the programs he initiated, the New Deal program that was so very, very important.
Blackstock:My impression is that Texas did not suffer from the Depression as badly as some of the rest of the country, particularly the industrial north and east.
Blackstock:Is that your impression?
McKinney:Well, I think that's right. Being part of the population of Texas in rural areas, you could live on a farm if somebody would let you have the house and you could have a garden and maybe if you were lucky, you could have a cow and you didn't have any utility bills, because there were no utilities then, and things like that, and many of the people didn't have to pay any rent and so forth. Certainly the Depression had a great impact on people, but probably not to the extent it was in large cities.
Blackstock:As a youngster what did you want to be when you grew up?
McKinney:I would guess that I, like everyone else, all little boys anyway, that one of the first things you wanted to be when you grow up — if you were in Texas at least — was to be a cowboy. And I vividly remember going to the silent movies and my cowboy heroes. I never quite lost my love for horses, though I was not particularly skilled with horses. But somewhere in the sixth or seventh grade of school I began to have an interest in technical radio, and so I guess I had some thoughts about being an engineer or something pretty vague about it. It turned out, I went to school and became a physicist, or at least majored in physics, but at that time I had never heard of work in physics. Certainly I didn't know what a physicist was.
Blackstock:Before college what were your hobbies, special interests, heroes? Well, you've already mentioned cowboys, but —
McKinney:I had several hobbies that were important to me. One thing I did start when I was a youth, when I was a freshman in high school, I built my first radio, a crystal radio, and then later 1-tube sets and 2-tube sets; later I became a radio amateur and got a license. This is how a great many people got started in the field of science and technology. A popular thing to do at that time was to build radios. They were cheap. You could make a radio for almost nothing. So that was a special hobby. I mean that was a hobby that lasted really all my life. And then in high school I guess I started having an interest in photography, developing my own films and so forth, but found I was too tight to buy a good camera, even though I probably could have afforded it at that time because I was earning some money. But I found that what I really liked rather than taking pictures was making equipment. I remember making my own enlarger and my own flash attachment that would work on a box camera and things like that. And the same thing was true with radio; I found that I liked to make the equipment but not operate it very much. I also, for a period of several years, I had an interest in magic. Not as a performer, but to make equipment for doing magical tricks, which I showed to only my closest friends. And I was very interested in Boy Scouts, and that was very important to me, and I eventually became an Eagle Scout. Boy Scout activities were important to me.
Blackstock:Where did you attend summer camp? Boy Scouts always had summer camps.
McKinney:Well, most of the time we were all too poor to attend anything other than a one-week camp. It cost four dollars and fifty cents to attend Camp Clark at Paris, Texas, and we would go there, but we'd go out on our own overnight camps and things like that for maybe a few days. Sometimes we'd go up to Oklahoma to Beavers Bend State Park, things of that nature.
Blackstock:What subjects, events, activities did you enjoy most in high school?
McKinney:That's easy to answer directly in saying that by far the course that really thrilled me the most, well two courses — one was general science and one was physics. I loved those two. I also liked math courses too, and I liked English literature courses.
Blackstock:Looking back, was there any person or persons during that time frame that had a strong influence on you and your future?
McKinney:Well, as one might guess, people that had probably the strongest influence on me were my parents, my mother and father, who set extremely high standards for integrity and honesty and love. I certainly grew up in a very loving family and then my older (I had a brother about three or four years older than I was) brother later became an engineer also, a very successful one, but I always, right or wrong, felt like whatever he did I should do the same thing, so he had a great influence on me. The fellow that was my scoutmaster and also later close friend had considerable influence one me.
Blackstock:What was his name?
McKinney:Elwin Byrns. He later — he became a teacher in the school in Cooper, as I did later, and he was a very fine person, a very fine classroom teacher. He was very obese and was flatfooted and was turned down by the military during World War II, so he went into the Boy Scout work professionally and rose to be, I think, at the second level of National Boy Scouts and I think at one time was in charge of all camping activities in the United States.
Blackstock:Okay. College years. Now we're into Section E, undergraduate level. Where did you first go to college and what was your major?
McKinney:I went to school at what was then called East Texas State Teachers College at Commerce, Texas. Commerce is about 15 miles from Cooper, and I majored in physics there, which was a very rare thing at that time.
Blackstock:Let me just ask you ahead of time, what was the tuition?
McKinney:The tuition at that time in all state schools was twenty-five dollars a semester. The interesting thing about the teachers colleges — and there were seven of those in Texas – was that they also had a flat fee that covered just about all your other expenses other than room and board, such as your books. They furnished the books and the yearbook and the student newspaper and the athletic events and all of that, and I think the cost was twelve dollars and fifty cents a semester. So for thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents your schoolwork was covered, and many people commuted from their homes for distances sometimes up to as much as a hundred miles, rode a bus or something to school at Commerce. It was an inexpensive school. If you stayed in a boardinghouse, the standard price for a room was five dollars a month, sharing a room with somebody. And the cost for three excellent meals, seven days a week, was fifteen dollars a month.
Blackstock:Now did you live in Commerce when you were in school there?
McKinney:Actually, for the first year and a half I did live there and stayed in a dormitory. It was probably the best dormitory I ever lived in. It was a new dormitory, and I roomed with a boy who had been my bosom buddy from first grade on.
Blackstock:And his name?
McKinney:His name was Ed Smith. He lived across the street from me, and he was in college in agricultural work and later on in the service in World War II, but he got his Ph.D. at Texas A&M and taught at Manhattan at Kansas State for many years. He's dead now.
Blackstock:And what was your major?
Blackstock:So you started out as a physics major.
McKinney:Well, no, I started out I was taking — well, I should say why did I go to this college. It was handy. It was nearby, it was cheap, and that was what those teachers colleges were set up to be, and they served a very good purpose though their main objective was to train teachers, which were badly needed in Texas. And it was not a very hard school. I would say it was an easy school, but many of the students that attended — and there were about 1500 students there at that time — many of those who attended had come from very small schools and sometimes had never been to anything but two- or three-teacher schools maybe. Many of them were not well prepared, and that may have had some influence on the level of teaching and difficulty of the course work that was taught. But anyway, I was going to go there and probably transfer to some engineering school like my brother had done. He transferred to SMU where there was engineering. But for various reasons I stayed on there and decided to get my degree there. Part of it was that just before my junior year started I had an emergency appendectomy, and in those days that took you out of commission for about a month. I stayed in the hospital two weeks. That was right when school was supposed to start, so I really could not have started school anywhere else, but at this college in Commerce where I was going to school it was ok with them for me to enter two weeks late, and as a matter of fact the two physics courses I was going to take, were delayed until I got there.
Blackstock:Now I would guess that you must have started there about 1937?
McKinney:That's right. I started in '37.
Blackstock:And at that time there were only eleven grades in the public schools in Texas?
McKinney:Yes. True, true.
Blackstock:So you started when you were six and you finished when you were seventeen and then that was 1937.
Blackstock:Okay. And this appendectomy was your junior year did you say?
McKinney:I guess it was just before my junior year.
Blackstock:So that would have been 1939.
McKinney:Yeah, it was '39. I was in the hospital when the war in Europe started.
Blackstock:I was just going to say.
McKinney:Yeah. And so anyway, I decided to stay on and get my degree there.
Blackstock:So you finished then in 1941.
McKinney:I finished actually in January of 1941, and so I was in school for three and a half years. And I had a major in physics and a major in math.
Blackstock:Okay. Now since it was a teachers college, did you get a teaching certificate?
McKinney:You almost had to. You might as well get a teachers certificate, but in general they didn't teach enough of the courses for you to do much more specializing, so yes, I got a teachers certificate and, as we'll see later, I taught public school for a year. Anyway, the only education course that I enjoyed was the practice teaching. I liked that a lot.
Blackstock:Was that in a high school?
McKinney:In a high school, Commerce High School.
Blackstock:Okay. Now we've already covered the second question, what made you choose that college and that major, except maybe for how did you happen to choose physics. You had said you were interested in radio but at that time when you were a young boy you didn't probably even know what a physicist was.
McKinney:That's right. I didn't know until I started high school. I didn't know what physics was, or certainly not what a physicist was.
Blackstock:It was your high school experience in physics which you enjoyed a whole lot that really —
McKinney:Yeah. Well, and also that was the closest thing to radio and electronics.
Blackstock:There was no engineering probably at East Texas Teacher's College.
McKinney:Oh no, no. And furthermore, at The University of Texas there was very little electronics at all in the engineering school. At that time in Texas if you wanted to really study what was later to be called electronics, that was best found in the physics department.
Blackstock:Okay. As an undergraduate did you ever change college or your major?
McKinney:No, I didn't.
Blackstock:As an undergraduate did you belong to any special clubs or participate in any special school activities — chess, math, newspaper, sports, music, etc.?
McKinney:No, I was very much a do-nothing student in my undergraduate days. I enjoyed college there and going to school. It was easy and I didn't work very hard — oh, I think I belonged to a science club, which was not very active, and I, probably also, later on belonged to an amateur radio club that was there.
Blackstock:In undergraduate college years, tell us about your undergraduate college days. Was there any particular person, teacher, professor, or someone special that had a strong influence on you or your future?
McKinney:Oh, there was really just one physics teacher in school, so he had an influence on me, and I think he encouraged me, maybe talked to me some about going on to graduate school and so forth, and I'm pretty sure he talked to me about maybe someday coming back to that school and taking his place and teaching physics. One math Professor, E.O. Box, Sr., taught some physics courses too. His son had been my high school physics teacher, and an excellent teacher. His son now lives in Austin and we are quite close friends. And so anyway, those were about the only ones that influenced me.
Blackstock:With a one-man physics department, physics of course flourished with the explosion of nuclear physics after World War II, but before the war I suppose that it must have been all classical physics; is that right?
McKinney:Well, in my experience it was entirely classical physics. I had no modern physics whatsoever in the physics courses. You got a pretty good course in classical physics. This gentleman Mr. Brady, T. H. Brady, did not have any degree in physics. For instance we had six hours of lectures a week which was pretty heavy going, so he could teach a lot of elementary physics in that time, and he used a standard textbook, and so you got a good course in classical physics. For the sophomore year you got the same courses that were taught at The University of Texas, because that's where he had taken these courses — namely Colby's book on acoustics and Brown's book on electromagnetics and, let's see, something else. Anyway, it was the same sophomore course as taught at The University, on the sound and light and electricity and magnetism. And then in the senior and junior years their catalog listed, and they taught them because I wanted to take them, a couple of courses in mechanics and a course in alternating currents and a course in electrical measurements or something like that. It was barely enough courses to get 24 semester hours, which was required for a major.
Blackstock:So you never had a course in optics for example?
McKinney:Well, only in my sophomore year.
Blackstock:Oh, in the sophomore physics course?
McKinney:That's right. No, no, never had a course in anything really, had no courses in modern physics, no courses in thermodynamics, and nothing about quantum mechanics or anything like that.
Blackstock:I remember a little tale in Colby's book on sound about the amount of energy it would take if you talked to a cup of coffee to heat it up. You probably remember that.
Blackstock:I don't remember how many hours it would take, but it was a long time.
McKinney:Yes. That's right. That's a good little book.
Blackstock:Yes, yes it is.
McKinney:There's nothing wrong with that elementary book on acoustics. I still have a copy.
Blackstock:I do too. During that period of your life, who was your inspirational model — scientist, religious leader, politician, business leader, movie star, sports hero? None of the above?
McKinney:None of the above. You know, I had an interest in watching football games or listening to them on the radio or something like that, but I didn't have — I don't think I really had any sports heroes or — and certainly not any religious heroes or not any — I don't know that I had any heroes in particular.
Blackstock:During that latter part of the 1930s A&M had a great football player. John Kimbrough was the star. Do you remember him?
McKinney:Oh sure. As a matter of fact one of my classmates went to A&M about the same year I did. He may have gone one year earlier. And he made All-American at A&M. Marshall Robnett.
Blackstock:I've heard that name. Yeah.
McKinney:He was one of the few people from my small town that went off to play college football. He wasn't the only one.
Blackstock:Well, you were a little far away from College Station and Austin where you were, but did you have a — had you formed a preference for A&M or Texas at that time?
McKinney:No, I really didn't have any preference for A&M. I think if I had thought about going to some other school it would have been The University of Texas in Austin.
Blackstock:Did you ever participate in a rally, protest or cause?
McKinney:No, we didn't know about those things.
Blackstock:Looking back, would you go to the same college and take the same major if you could start all over again?
McKinney:You know that's an interesting question. In hindsight, I could have picked any one of several schools within Texas that were vastly better in physics departments than where I was – The University of Texas, A&M, and Texas Tech, I would say, were all better, and maybe Texas A&I down in Kingsville, and probably even North Texas at Denton. Most of the teachers colleges didn't have much in the way of physics departments. If I had gone to one of those schools I would have been a much better physicist, would have gotten a much better undergraduate education in physics. On the other hand, in hindsight, if I could do it over again, would I? And I would have to say yes I would, because I've been so happy with the way my life turned out going to a small school that barely could give a degree in physics. And so everything has turned out well — I've been so lucky and everything turned out good for me in terms of marriage, children, and grandchildren now and I have loved working at ARL/DRL, and I loved my time when I was in the military. And so I wouldn't want my life to be any different, and if I'd gone to a different school it certainly would have been different. But the school I went to for my bachelor's degree was not a very good school.
Blackstock:Now we're supposed to skip on here to graduate level and master's degree. I have an idea however that — and I guess we'll get to this, your military training, but I suspect that chronologically your military training or your military service probably came after your undergraduate days?
McKinney:Well, yes, it did, but chronologically I think it would be better to say what I did when I got out of college. I hadn't really given a whole lot of thought to what I was going to do, but I had gotten a teacher’s certificate because it was easy to get, you might as well get it, and most of the education courses I took had zero content in them, so they were easy courses. But, when I got out of school I was thinking some about going into the military because Europe had been at war for a couple years now.
Blackstock:In January 1941 we were almost a year away before we got in there.
McKinney:That's right. So we weren't in war, but all of my technical magazines I was reading were telling you all of the opportunities in the military for people with a background in radio. And so I was giving some thought to that, but I got two or three offers for a teaching job that midyear. I finished in January. I wasn't quite twenty-one years old then when I got these offers, and one of them as it turned out was in my hometown of Cooper. The science teacher left and so they called me up and asked me would I like the job of science teacher and I took it. I took it in part because I was cheap and I gave absolutely no thought of reimbursing my parents for my room and board. That never occurred to me. And I could save my money. I wanted to buy a car. That was the biggest thing in my mind. I wanted to buy my own car. And so I took the job, and this is —
Blackstock:This was when, January 1941?
McKinney:Yeah, January of 1941. And as I say I started teaching a few days before I was twenty-one.
Blackstock:And this was Cooper High School?
Blackstock:So you weren't a heck of a lot older than some of the students.
McKinney:Oh no. And I had most of the boys in Scout Troop and so forth. I had been an Assistant Scoutmaster. And all of the other teachers there mostly were the same teachers I had had when I went to school there. They were still teaching there. Anyway, the science teacher had to teach physics, chemistry, biology and general science. Physics was fine. I loved that and it was easy. Chemistry was okay because at least I had had a college course in chemistry, but I had never had a course in biology. So the students in my biology classes — and I had two biology classes — knew one half book more biology than I did. And that made it difficult, and I'm sure I possibly did great harm to all the students who took biology under me. I hope that they survived without any lasting scars. But I loved teaching, and I had a good time. It was a full-time job, you know, teaching four different courses, and general science of course. I had to teach that. Anyway, I taught that semester and then that summer I registered for the draft because I was now twenty-one. And I was in school down here at Austin for the summer for six weeks.
Blackstock:You came to The University of Texas for the summer?
Blackstock:As a graduate student then?
McKinney:Well, yes and no. I came down here thinking I would take some physics courses but they didn't teach anything except elementary physics in the summertime, and so the only thing I took was a six-semester hour course in zoology that was intended for med school majors. And so I had learned something about biology. Anyway, I registered for the draft down here and as it turned out I had a high number. I would have been drafted very soon. At that time we were not in war, and when I went back home, the school applied for a deferment for me, and I was deferred.
Blackstock:So you went into the military then?
McKinney:No. No, no. I went back to Cooper to teach again. All I did was register for the draft.
Blackstock:I see. Okay.
McKinney:So then Pearl Harbor comes along at the end of —
Blackstock:So you taught in Cooper again in the fall?
McKinney:The first semester. This time I was starting at the first part of each of the books so I did better on biology than the year before. Anyway, I had a good time, and enjoyed it and was learning some things, but Pearl Harbor comes along, so the Monday morning after Pearl Harbor I resigned to go into the service. I would have been called up pretty soon, but — I was anxious to get in the service and that's what I wanted to do. So, first I went to Dallas and took the exam and everything for the Army Air Force, because I had read on the bulletin board when I was at the Army Recruiting Center there that there was such a thing as aviation cadets who were not pilots, that you could be a cadet in communications, which is what I was interested in. So I thought I'd do that, and I thought they would give me a gun that night. So I went to Dallas to take the physical exam and everything for the Army Cadet Corps. And as I say, I thought at the end of the day they'd give me a gun and send me off to fight the Germans and the Japs. But they said, "Oh no. You passed great. You easily passed, but you won't be called up for six months. But that's all right. We won't draft you. Nobody will draft you. Just show them this form letter, and I said, "That's not what I want. I want to get in the service." So I decided then that I would volunteer for the Signal Corps in the Army, and did. And so I went to the Army recruiting place in Paris this time, and I said, "If I volunteer, do I go into the service then?" They said, "We'll send you to Dallas on the train that afternoon if you volunteer in the morning.” So I said, "That's what I want." And so I volunteered to be a private, twenty-one dollars a month. And so I rode the train to Dallas and got through all of that; they sent me to Camp Wolters [near Mineral Wells, Texas] and then to Camp Crowder, Missouri — all this is happening in the first two weeks of my military career. The reason I did this was because they had an arrangement that said if you had at least two years of engineering school or a physics degree and a radio amateur's license you could elect to go to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to the radio school there, and that's what I wanted to do. I was smart enough to know that I didn't know as much about electronics as I needed to know. And their school had the reputation of being good, and it was. It was excellent. So anyway I go to Fort Monmouth.
Blackstock:This was when, early in 1942?
McKinney:Yeah. First of March. And so I just, you know, started to school there and it was a 16-week course, but it was self-paced, and they followed a great outline. They followed Terman’s book on radio engineering, and they would check you out all of the good standard college textbooks on radio. Anyway, I was going great guns and it looked to me like I could finish the whole course in four weeks instead of the sixteen that you could take, but I didn't quite make it. They called me in and they asked me a couple of questions and I answered those and they said they were the right answers — and they said, "We want you to go to a special school and that's very secret." It was radar. And so I said, "Can I finish? I'm nearly through with this course" in radio maintenance or technology — basic radio. And they, "No, we can't wait for that."
Blackstock:They needed people in radar. Yeah.
McKinney:So they sent me off to the — I know I'm taking up too much time on this.
Blackstock:That's all right. No, no, we were going to get to this anyhow.
McKinney:So they sent me to this school. Well that pulled me out of all of my classes there at the maintenance school, to go to a special school. So I was out of step and I never learned to march because I was never drilled in the basics.
Blackstock:Where was the radar school?
McKinney:It was there at Fort Monmouth.
Blackstock:Oh, I see.
McKinney:They had security clearance and so forth that you had to go through, and so I got an early security clearance there in '42, and so I was going great guns in this radar school and having a good time, but you worked individually. They'd give you a piece of equipment that you'd trace a circuit of it and then explain how it worked and then they'd put troubles into it and so forth. And the Army just had two radars then.
Blackstock:Oh my word.
McKinney:Well, I mean they had two types of radar. But one of them was the SCR-271 that detected the Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor at a range of 150 miles, and if they had done what they should have done it should — Anyway, so I was going great guns here and enjoying myself, and I met one or two people there that were famous, you know, for having written books on radio and gotten to know them even though they were officers and I was an enlisted man at twenty-one dollars a month. And so I was going pretty good here and they pulled me out and they said, "We want you to go to Florida to help open up a school down there in radar."
Blackstock:So you were going to be an instructor?
McKinney:Yeah. As a Private. And so I didn't finish that school, but it was a good school. And so they sent me to Florida to open a brand new school there. So I spent most of my time building up equipment.
McKinney:It was near West Palm Beach. It was out in the country in the swamp. God, the mosquitoes were terrible. The Army was all screwed up then. Well you know, you'd run out of food. You know, they flat ran out of food where they didn't have anything to feed us for a day or two there until the first of the month. Anyway, I taught a bunch of officers that were going to the school there and was having a good time, but as I say I wasn't making much money, twenty-one dollars a month. And so then I got a message saying I had to go to Cadet School — which I had forgotten about.
Blackstock:Oh my. So that application you had made way back early —
McKinney:Yeah. Six months earlier.
Blackstock:— was still applicable.
McKinney:Yeah. And so they asked me what I wanted to do and I said, "Well, I don't care," and so they — the Army Air Force had priority they said, and so I went to Cadet School, which was a terrible school. It was at St. Louis, and it was a communications school and it was very poor, and that was sixteen weeks. They picked thirteen of us out of the class — you know, several hundred in the class, picked thirteen out —
Blackstock:That group of students at this Cadet School, and this was communications, right?
Blackstock:Okay. I suppose they were from all over the country?
Blackstock:And did many of them have physics degrees like you did?
McKinney:Yeah. Some had engineering and so forth.
Blackstock:And from what schools for example?
McKinney:Oh, I don't remember.
Blackstock:But from all over the country?
McKinney:But of lot of them didn't have — they all had college, some college years, and most of them in some science or other, but some were electrical engineers and different things. Nearly everybody at that school was a licensed radio amateur — so they had fooled with radio.
Blackstock:Okay. Well excuse me. I interrupted.
McKinney:No. Anyway, that was a pretty poor school. But so we finished that, and the —
Blackstock:So this was —?
McKinney:In '42, summer of '42.
Blackstock:In the summer of 1942. Okay.
McKinney:And so anyway, thirteen of us were sent up to Harvard and MIT and thirteen weeks at each school, and so, and that was wonderful schooling there, just outstanding. And Chaffee and a lot of the people, most of the people were from Harvard and other good schools.
Blackstock:Chaffee was Harvard.
Blackstock:Do you remember some other instructors?
McKinney:Oh. Harry Mimno.
Blackstock:Oh my word. Yes, I know him.
McKinney:And there was somebody — oh, I can't remember.
Blackstock:Well, Hunt was there, but of course you probably didn't run across him.
McKinney:Well Hunt was over at the Underwater Sound Lab. No, I didn't know Hunt at all.
Blackstock:What about at MIT? Who was there?
McKinney:Okay. Barrow was one. And I have to think about some of those people, because a lot of the MIT people were at the Radiation Lab, and the school was not a part of the Radiation Lab.
Blackstock:Oh, I see. I see.
McKinney:They were there together and some of the people worked in both places you know.
Blackstock:Now was the school in communications or radar?
McKinney:Well, at Harvard it was just high-frequency electronics, and they told me that they would give me a half a year credit for the course, for a graduate school course, and it was taught in the Graduate School of Engineering there. I really enjoyed going to Harvard, because they tried to make you feel like you were a real student, you know. They would have teas and things like that. And so we had a good time. And MIT was much more business.
Blackstock:You didn't meet Bob Watson there did you?
McKinney:No, no. In fact, I didn't meet any of the underwater sound people. We went to school six days a week and a lot of times at night, but it was a tremendously good education. And the same was true over at MIT. It was a classified course and it was a radar course, "Centimeter Wavelength Radar" and it was also thirteen weeks.
Blackstock:You had thirteen weeks at Harvard and then thirteen weeks at MIT?
McKinney:Yeah. That's right.
Blackstock:So this is half a year starting about when?
McKinney:Well, we started there about November '42 and then I finished up before June I think.
McKinney:In '43. So then they sent our group down to Florida to Boca Raton to get some flying experience with radar sets. And then I couldn't get a job for a while, and we were just sitting around there and I was about to go to flight school.
Blackstock:This was then as a radio operator in an airplane or —?
McKinney:A radar operator.
Blackstock:A radar operator.
McKinney:And so they were using these airplanes for antisubmarine patrols off the Florida coast.
McKinney:And we took another course there and we made up our own courses to occupy our time because we weren't getting any jobs, and here we were supposed to be the elite people who had been educated at Harvard and MIT and we're sitting there. Then the B-29 program gets rolling, and so a lot of us were assigned to the first B-29 wing in Kansas.
Blackstock:Now this was Army Air Corps then?
Blackstock:And during the time before you were called to Cadet School you were at Signal Corps; is that right?
McKinney:And so then we get assigned to this B-29 outfit in Kansas, Great Bend, Kansas, and after a few months there were sent overseas, went to India and China, we flew over the hump between India and China frequently.
Blackstock:Now was this in B-29s?
McKinney:Yeah. And I was a radar officer, and when I first got there I had no maintenance people. I was supposed to have eighteen people and I had none.
Blackstock:So you had to do your own?
McKinney:Yeah. And then I got somebody who had been a union organizer in the baker business for the bakery. Anyway, I was in India and China about a year, and then they dissolved our squadron completely. And then I was in Bomber Command Headquarters for a while. I did write a report or a book while I was there on maintenance of this centimeter radar — which I had never seen until I went overseas.
Blackstock:Now where was this, where you were at Bomber Command? Was that in —?
McKinney:It was near Calcutta.
Blackstock:Okay. So this was in India.
McKinney:Yeah. What we had was four rear bases in India, all near Calcutta. And then we had advance bases near Chengtu in western China. And we didn't have enough radar people to staff both places, so I was usually the one that would fly back and forth with our group when a mission was going to take place. If the radars had broken down I would try to fix them and so forth.
Blackstock:What were the B-29s doing flying around in India and China?
McKinney:Because Roosevelt had promised Chiang-Kai-Shek that they would bomb Japan by a certain date. And so where are you going to get to Japan except from western China?
Blackstock:Yeah. We didn't have Iwo Jima and —
McKinney:Oh, or Tinian and so forth.
McKinney:So anyway, we were there about a year or something like that, and then in the meantime they had captured the Marianas, Saipan, and Tinian, and so, by the way, then I got assigned to another group, and our whole wing flew to Tinian.
Blackstock:This was what, in 1944?
McKinney:Mmmm, no. I think now we're talking about '45.
Blackstock:'45. Okay. All right.
McKinney:Early '45. And so I was on Tinian about nine months or something like that — no, maybe only about six or seven months — when they dropped the bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. And the war got over and I came home.
Blackstock:Okay. We've leapfrogged over into the military, but that's okay.
McKinney:That's a lot more time than we should have spent on the military.
Blackstock:Well, no, what it does is stay chronological. Okay, now do we go to graduate school?
McKinney:Let me see if there's anything we're skipping here. It says here under military is there anything you recall about your military service that you feel had some influence on your future. A whole lot. You know, I loved my time in the service. Of course, I wasn't being shot at either. We got bombed a few times, but most of the things we did were flying the B-29s which were — you know, you're afraid you'll run into a mountain. We could see Mt. Everest in flying over the hump, and most of the planes that were lost over there were lost crashing into the Himalayas, or just having an engine go out.
Blackstock:And what was your highest rank?
McKinney: I was Army Captain.
Blackstock:Okay. So at what stage did you go from being an enlisted man to an officer?
McKinney:Oh, when I went to Cadet School. When you finish Cadet School you are commissioned a second lieutenant.
Blackstock:Second lieutenant. I see. Okay.
McKinney:Then I got promoted to first lieutenant about the time I went overseas, and then finally got promoted to Captain, but that was delayed some because my squadron was disbanded. I could have come back to the U.S., but I didn't want to.
Blackstock:Anything about your military service you feel had some significance on your future, obviously that's the case. All of this communications, electronics and radar had a big effect on what you were to do in graduate school.
Blackstock:Okay, so you came back. Did you come back to the United States in August or September?
McKinney:No, no, I didn't come back until November. I could have come back a little earlier, but to tell you the truth I was taking sort of the easy way out. I could come back on a boat and that would take thirty days, or I could have come back on the B-29s. The B-29 I usually flew with, the pilot (the captain of the plane) had come back early with another crew — pulled rank you know — and I didn't think the person left, who was going to be in charge of the B-29, had all that much experience, so I decided I'd just ride a ship home. And I did, and that took thirty days to come from Tinian to the West Coast.
Blackstock:And when did you muster out?
McKinney:I got a leave I think, because I had a lot of accumulated leave. Well, December. I was thinking, I got home in December and then I decided that I would go to graduate school at UT.
Blackstock:So did you begin in January then?
McKinney:No. They were on a quarter system then and I started in March.
Blackstock:I see. Okay.
McKinney:So, and my leave time had lasted until that same date.
Blackstock:Okay. Now when you entered graduate school of course you had to apply for admission. Was that a big deal at the time?
McKinney:No. Matter of fact, when I applied down here for graduate school Dean Brogan was graduate dean — I don't know whether you remember him or not.
Blackstock:Yes, I know his name.
McKinney:And I probably had an hour and a half visit with him. You can't believe that now, you know, with the size of everything, number of students and so forth, that a first year graduate student would have an hour and a half's visit with the dean. And he made several telephone calls, you know, asked me what I wanted to do, who I wanted to work under. I told him Boner because his was one of the few names I knew. And he said, "I don't think he's going to teach any, but I'll find out through the people at the Physics Department.” S. L. Brown, you know, because I knew that name
Blackstock:How'd you get hooked up with Claude Horton?
McKinney:Okay. And then so I, anyway, as I said, that was a good hour and a half visit with the dean, and so then he sent me over to see Dr. Brown, who was then Chairman of the Physics department, and so Brown asked me what I wanted to do and I told him, and he thought that sounded great, you know, that really sounded interesting. I wanted to build some microwave equipment, and I had rather — I was very vague about what I would do with it, you know, but I had a few ideas. And he said, "That's just wonderful." And then he called me back in a day or two and said, "There's a new Lab here and they are doing some of the same things that you are interested in doing and they have already got this equipment and I think you should go over there and do your research project." And he says, "I want you to work with this young professor Bob Watson," Robert Watson.
McKinney:And so they gave me a room with Watson.
Blackstock:This was at DRL?
McKinney:No, over on the campus. I even think I shared Boner's old office, Watson shared it with me. I'm sure he didn't particularly like that, but no, he seemed fine about it. So that's where I first met Watson, and so I went over there, started on a project, and did my master's there with Watson.
Blackstock:Oh, you did a master's under Watson. I didn't realize that.
McKinney:Yeah, he was my supervisor there, Watson was probably teaching half time and working half time with the Lab, and the same thing with Horton. So when I'd go over to the Lab to work —
Blackstock:When you say the Lab, which Lab do you mean?
Blackstock:DRL. Okay. DRL at that time was probably heavily radar and communications?
Blackstock:It hadn't really gotten into much acoustics?
McKinney:What they were doing — the Lab when it started off it had a radar group under Obie Baltzer, who was hired from MIT Rad Lab to come down and start the radar group, but a lot of the people in there were from the Harvard Lab — Frank Seay and Charles Rutherford and Walter Kuehne and all those people were from the Harvard Lab. Anyway, so there was a radar group, and then there was an aeronautics group that was under M. J. Thompson. He had some real powerful people in that group, and they were building a blow-down wind tunnel for testing high-mach-number air foils and so forth. And then there was a fuels group. The fuels group didn't last too long. And it was not until Richard Lane, who came to the Lab in maybe '46, did they get into acoustic waves. With some help from Boner and people they knew in Washington they got some acoustics work. Richard was really the one that started the acoustic program. I doubt if Boner would have started it.
Blackstock:Well, okay. Now let's see. We're into Section F, graduate level master's degree. What led to your choice of school and curriculum? I think you already covered that. How were you supported?
McKinney:Well, it was very easy to be supported. For one thing I had the GI Bill, and that was enough to live on, and then I also had a job. I had different kinds of jobs, but I taught labs and then when the University got its first ONR contract — ONR had just been formed — and they were really handed a $50,000 a year contract, which was not to be sneezed at in those days. And so Dr. Brown put me on that, and so I worked on that for about a year, and published one paper from that. And should have published more, but I got busy doing my research work for my master's degree. So anyway, and then — well, I was supported by, as I said, the GI Bill, and I'd saved a lot of money — or for me a lot of money — while I was in the service, so you know I had a new convertible and everything. I was living it up.
Blackstock:Earlier you were talking about when you were back when I guess you were teaching school in Cooper you were trying to save money to buy a car. Did you buy a car then?
McKinney:Yes I did.
Blackstock:What kind of car was it?
McKinney:Oh, it was a 1940 Chevrolet Super Sport, which was only a year old, and I paid $485 for it. I sold it when I went in the service.
Blackstock:I was going to say, what happened to it when you went in the service? Sure. Okay. Now what was your master's thesis project? And this was under Watson?
McKinney:Watson. That's right. First, he showed me where to find in the storehouse a WWII three-centimeter signal generator and receiver and amplifier. So I got that out and he said, "Get these to working and fool around with them," and so I didn't really have a topic to work on, because what I thought I was going to start on was building that same equipment. And I didn't have to build it — here it was handed to me.
Blackstock:Was this some surplus equipment?
McKinney:Well, yeah, and it had been stuff that was developed by the Rad Lab at MIT. And it was excellent equipment. And so then he came in one day and said, "I believe I know," or "I have thought about a thesis project," and he said, "I think you can do a calibration on a horn antenna and get the absolute gain for it without having an absolute standard by reciprocity." Okay. See, that was coming from the acoustics field that he was familiar with. Well I didn't know anything about the reciprocity business, so I read JASA (Journal of the Acoustical Society of America) and a few things. You know, he gave me a few leads to go on. So he sat me down and went through about what we could do if I could come up with the equipment to do it and ways to do it. And I did, and it was straightforward.
Blackstock:Well that's remarkable. So reciprocity got started in acoustics?
Blackstock:It wasn't at the same time known in E and M?
McKinney:It might have been, but I think it was known much better in acoustics, yeah, and I really think it started there. Maybe [S.] Ballantine.
Blackstock:Well, Dick Cook at National Bureau of Standards, Richard, a close friend of Mo Greenspan.
Blackstock:Dick Cook was the guy who came up with the reciprocity scheme. Well, go ahead. So that was your first reading of acoustics literature then I guess.
McKinney:Oh yes. I had to go over and read JASA for that. And so anyway, I set this up and I was learning about nearfield and farfield you know and what I had to do to stay in the farfield and this, that and the other. Finally, anyway I did a bunch of measurements, and well I had to make a bunch of horns too — metal horns and so forth. So I did you know, tried out the scheme and —
Blackstock:When you say make a horn, did you —?
McKinney:Out of sheet metal.
Blackstock:Yeah, so this was not circular cross section but rectangular cross section?
McKinney:Well, there were some that were both.
Blackstock:Oh, so you could make a metal horn out of, a conical horn out of or exponential horn out of sheet metal?
McKinney:It wasn't exponential, it was conical.
McKinney:No, I didn't make any exponential. Thought about that, thought about going out and buying an old trumpet.
Blackstock:Yes. This is the second of our tapes. The interview with Chester McKinney, and he was just beginning to describe his master's thesis under Bob Watson. And go ahead, Chester.
McKinney:Well, so I made the measurements and was getting agreement with the — or at least I was getting consistent agreement — with my measurements for calibration, absolute gain for these horn antennas. I had maybe, I don't know, maybe ten antennas I was using. And as the size of the horn went up, the absolute gain went up in a linear manner and so forth. So this worked out pretty good. And then he had me make directivity measurements on all of these horns, and that was something I had not done before. I had done a little bit of it at MIT, but not much. And so I learned some things there, and then I wrote a thesis. And when I'd written the thesis he said he thought I ought to publish a paper, and I said, "Well, you know, it was your idea to do the reciprocity stuff anyway and you explained it to me and so it should be a co-authored paper." And he said well he'd come up with a different means of getting the absolute gain by the integration of directivity patterns, and he says, "Why don't we put that together and make one paper out of it?" And we did, and it got published in the Journal of Applied Physics. So that was maybe my first paper to publish, or the first one might have been from some of the work I did with Dr. Brown on the multi-harmonograph and polynomials.
Blackstock:Now this would have been in 1946?
McKinney:Well, I got my master's degree in '47, so this was going —
Blackstock:I see. It took you a couple years, yes.
McKinney:No, I started in '46.
Blackstock:I'm sorry. Now —
McKinney:I started in the fall of '46. I went over to the Lab — I came over to DRL in the fall of '46 and I got my master's degree in August of '47.
McKinney:I worked on research work about a year.
Blackstock:That's pretty darn good for a master's degree. It takes guys these days two years is normal. Now you had actually entered the University in April?
Blackstock:In March. Okay.
McKinney:In March of '46.
Blackstock:Okay. And you were dealing with Dr. Brown and maybe some others at that time, and you started at DRL in the fall.
McKinney:In October of '46.
Blackstock:Okay. And that's when you began your thesis work.
Blackstock:Well boy, you finished in a hurry.
McKinney:Well, it was a pretty easy thing to do, and you know, I was familiar with using that kind of equipment. Anyway, Bob Watson suggested — and as I say, he and I shared an office together, Boner's old office — and I'd had a couple of courses under Watson by this time. Well, first he said, "Let's publish a paper," and we did that, and that was great, and I probably wouldn't have done it except for him proposing it.
Blackstock:Let me ask you one question before getting further on here. What course work did you take during this year, year and a quarter?
Oh. That's sort of interesting. My education in physics was so lacking when I came to The University of Texas that Brown and Colby both recommended that I go back and take all those junior courses — 325 and 326 and thermodynamics and mechanics, all of them.
Blackstock:Did you take thermo under Lockenvitz?
McKinney:Yes, I did, and there was an interesting story about that, but it's probably not worth covering here, but — I think the first semester I was here Lockenvitz taught a course in thermodynamics which I'd never had. He was teaching out of Fermi's book on thermodynamics, and I thought it was not a particularly hard course or anything. But I made a C. Well, there were no exams on the thing until the final exam and I made a C in the course. I was crestfallen about that. As it turned out, I shouldn't have made a C. Lockenvitz had told us just to write the answers down on a piece of paper and do our calculating elsewhere, and he got mixed up on his master copy. You know, he couldn't see too well anyway, and so somebody else told me that they did the same thing but they went back and got him to change it. But I signed up and took it again. And the next time he taught it was from the Zemansky and that was a vastly better book.
McKinney:Because I thought Zemansky was a wonderful junior level or senior level text on thermodynamics. And so I learned a lot out of that, and I still have the Fermi book and I still have the Zemansky book. But anyway, so yes, I had more courses under Lockenvitz than anybody else over there.
Blackstock:Did you have mechanics under Darrell Hughes?
McKinney:I had mechanics under Lockenvitz and I had mechanics under Darrell Hughes and I had introduction to theoretical physics under Darrell. I thought Darrell Hughes was a very poor classroom teacher. I thought people like Colby and Brown were excellent classroom teachers.
Blackstock:That was certainly my experience.
McKinney:So anyway, but what I —
Blackstock:Okay, all right, now back to Watson and the master's degree.
McKinney:Yeah. So he said, "What are you going to do now?" and I said, "Well, I don't know. I thought I might continue on in school a while" and he said, "Why don't you get your Ph.D.?" and I said, "Well, that might be all right. Do you think I can get it?" and he thought, "Oh yeah," then he said, "I think you ought to work under Claude Horton." Later on I asked Claude Horton, "Why do you think Watson suggested I work under you rather than under him?" And Claude didn't know. He thought it was strange too. So anyway, Bob told me to go talk to Claude, whom I knew because he was working at the Lab, and so I talked to Claude and that got me started on a Ph.D.
Blackstock:If I'm not mistaken, Claude — when did he get his degree?
Blackstock:So when you started working for him, he still didn't have his Ph.D.; is that right?
McKinney:No, but he almost had it. Yeah.
Blackstock:Yeah, yeah, okay. And who was the second reader on your master's thesis?
McKinney:Probably Brown. I'd have to look and see.
McKinney:Brown always viewed me as his kid, you know, and —
Blackstock:Did you ever have any courses under Hatfield?
McKinney:No. Hatfield and I were good friends, but I never had a course under him.
Blackstock:I was impressed by him as a teacher.
McKinney:Oh, I'm sure he was a good classroom teacher.
Blackstock:Well, okay, did you ever find out why Watson suggested that you go see Horton?
McKinney:We never knew that, and I never asked Watson. I wish I had, but anyway, I thought maybe that Watson thought he might not be staying here at that point and maybe he thought he'd be leaving or something. I don't know. That's the only thing — I don't know why.
Blackstock:Well, okay. Who at the school had the greatest influence on your future? Well, I don't know, I guess you've already covered that really. This is master's?
Blackstock:Okay. Graduate school doctorate, did you continue on to a doctorate, yes you did, what college, yes, The University of Texas at Austin. At that time it wasn't called that. It was just called University of Texas.
Blackstock:What led you to that choice of school and curriculum?
McKinney:Easiest thing to do. Easy way out.
Blackstock:How were you supported?
McKinney:Again, I was supported by the GI Bill and then a salary from DRL. By this time I'd given up my job with Dr. Brown's ONR contract, because I just couldn't do both of them. Oddly enough, they would have let me do it. Also I had gotten married in 1948 and that's when I was really starting out on my Ph.D. work, and my wife, Linda, had a job with the University in the library system. She was a clerk typist in the Law School.
Blackstock:The Law School at that time was on 21st Street?
Blackstock:The old Law School?
McKinney:Yeah, the old Law School.
Blackstock:Across from Hilsberg’s Café?
McKinney:That's right. And so anyway, money was not a problem, I didn't realize that it would be a problem after I got out of school. But in school it wasn't a problem.
Blackstock:Where did you live?
McKinney:Well, after Linda and I were married we rented a little apartment over in the Enfield area on Bridle Path. We had our name on the list for GI Bill housing, veteran housing and moved there in March 1949.
McKinney:Well, Deep Eddy.
McKinney:Yeah. And we got Deep Eddy, twenty-five dollars a month with all the bills paid except the telephone. And so our living expenses were very low.
Blackstock:Okay. So let's go back to when you went to see Horton and Horton said, "Yeah, I'll take you," and did you decide at that point on what your project would be?
McKinney:Yes. That is, he asked me what I had in mind working on and I named two topics that I had thought some about; one was radio astronomy in the centimeter wavelength region, and I had in mind building a radio telescope. And I always wanted to build something you know, and the other thing was to build a digital electronic device that would do the same, or most of the functions of a slide rule.
McKinney:A computer. Yeah. You know. See, I'd worked on Brown's analog computer, you know computers were hot stuff. They were really just beginning to blossom and so forth. And so Claude listened to me and he said, "Well those are both good projects but I think they are too ambitious." He was correct by a few orders of magnitude. And so he said, "I have been doing some theoretical work on dielectric waveguides and dielectric radiators and I think you and I could be a good team if you did the experimental work and I did the theoretical work." And I said, "That's fine with me." And so he gave me the references, German references way back in the teens where they —
Blackstock:Had you learned to read German?
Well yeah, you had to pass German and French. And so I did a detailed translation of some of those German articles and probably should have published them as a report, but I didn't. Didn't know about that. And so anyway, he talked to me about how he thought I ought to set up my equipment you know, and he didn't know anything about the equipment but he said that was up to me. So I started making measurements and eventually two years later, I got my Ph.D. I was having an easy time — I was enjoying life. The hardest part really of getting the Ph.D. was not the research work part. Really I thought that was easy. And I thought the French and German, well; I thought German was harder to me. I had a hard time with that. But the book I had taken to the professor — I can't even remember his name — he told me it was a hard book to read. He said Germans have a hard time reading that book. It was Sommerfeld's book. But the hard part was passing the prelim. And that was what was really knocking people out on it and so I had to work real hard to get past that. And I learned more physics in getting ready for the prelims than anything else at any other time in my life. You know, because they could ask you questions on anything. And an all-day exam and so forth.
Blackstock:Had you had any German in college?
McKinney:No, no. I had to do all that in my graduate years.
Blackstock:There was a man in the German department, Dr. C. V. Pollard, who boiled German translation down into twelve rules. Did you take his course?
McKinney: No, he was not the one that I took my exam under. In fact I never had that Professor. I have his book still. But I found French was quite easy. I couldn't pronounce it at all, but I could read it. And I never took any French really. I took some German courses down here at the University.
Blackstock:I had taken German as an undergraduate, so that was a big help, but German was definitely the harder language of the two. Okay, so you want to go into a little detail about the thesis problem? Dielectric waveguides.
Yes. This was of interest. As it turned out the interest was not so much in dielectric waveguides at microwave frequencies. What people were really interested in was dielectric waveguides at optical frequencies — in other words fiber optic waveguides. I didn't know that, you know, but I didn't know — I'll come back to that in a minute. So anyway, I worked on several different modes of transmission and several higher order modes of dielectric waveguides just embedded in air.
Blackstock:What did you use for the dielectric?
McKinney:Mostly polystyrene and Lucite and water dioxane and castor oil.
Blackstock:What were they contained in?
McKinney:Oh, well things like castor oil or something like that was contained in a thin plastic tube. These were all cylindrical waveguides.
Blackstock:So they were all cylindrical waveguides, not rectangular?
McKinney:No. I did some work on that too, but that was not what I was doing my thesis on. And so I had to go from a rectangular waveguide to this and I had to invent some mode generators to generate these higher order modes. It's easy to generate the dominant mode. And so anyway, half of my thesis was to —
Blackstock:No plane wave mode in electromagnetics, not in those kinds of waveguide?
McKinney:No, but there was no cutoff on the dominant mode though.
McKinney:There is on all the other higher order modes. But one of the things that Claude had found — and this is a long time ago, so I don't remember this too well — but other than for the dominant mode there was a splitting of the, as I say, diameter of the rod versus the apparent wavelength you know, and so it would split. And he wanted to know whether that was real or not.
Blackstock:You mean into two different modes?
McKinney:Yeah. Well, two different speeds.
Blackstock:Oh. Oh. Two different speeds?
McKinney:Phase velocity I'm talking about. And so that was one of the things I was supposed to prove it one way or the other and I assured him that they were. And so anyway, I had to invent some mode generators and so forth, and so it was quite a bit to do. And then I developed a probe I used to measure the surface field on the dielectric waveguide. I put a waveguide here, metal waveguide driving a cylindrical rod and a reflective plate at the end and then I measured the standing wave. And so then when I had done all of that, I could calculate the phase velocity and wavelengths. The second half of my research was on dielectric radiators or antennas. I did this for a large number of radiators of different sizes and shapes
Is this radiating out the end of the waveguide or ?
McKinney:No, on the sides and the end.
Blackstock:On the sides, okay.
McKinney:It's a slow guide, and so that —
Blackstock:Ah, so it will radiate. It has to be slow so it will radiate?
McKinney:Yeah. And so anyway, so I did a lot of work on measurement of directivity patterns and so forth, for a whole bunch of rods. I was sort of running out of things to do but flexible waveguides, those where I used castor oil or something like that, patch cord measure attenuation as a function of wavelength curvature bending, things like that. All kinds of things. And I'm having a good time. And after I had passed the preliminary exam everything else was pretty easy. Claude stopped me on the DRL ground one day in 1950 and said, "Chester, I want you to get your degree, your Ph.D. in June." And I said, "Do you think I've done enough?" And he said, "Oh yeah, you've done plenty for the degree. Just write it up and give it to me." I might mention that I had little contact with Claude while I was doing my research.
Blackstock:This was at what time of the year?
McKinney:Oh, about February — January or February. And so I'll have to show you a copy of my thesis, and because it ended up being — anyway, it was very long. But I wrote madly and Linda typed some of it for me — a lady at the Lab typed a lot of it for me. Anyway, I think I set a record on length of a dissertation, and it was maybe that thick or something. And then —
Blackstock:And of course they were — I guess by that time maybe there were processes to make copies.
McKinney:Bruning or Ozalid.
Blackstock:And Ozalid of course, that fades with time, so that's not so good.
McKinney:But anyway, I finally got through with it, working night and day, you know, and gave it to Claude and he gave it back to me the next day. He said, "That's fine, but it's too long. Cut out 25 percent of it." And I said, "What 25 percent?" and he said, "I don't care. Just go through and cut out what you consider the worst 25 percent of your data. So I went back, I had to cut down work on it, cut out stuff. Anyway, and I had several people helping me type. One was — well, Linda helped me type, over at the Lab and one girl, one secretary or whatever was helping me, and I think Henrietta Jacobsen helped me some.
McKinney:Yeah. Trying to get it done. So, finally got it done. And Watson went over it very carefully and he was a big help to me just catching little errors in it and better sentence structure and all that. So, got it done.
Blackstock:That was in time for May graduation?
McKinney:Yeah. So I made it. And so then the final oral was lots of fun. It wasn't fun to me then, but it was fun in hindsight. There were two math professors on my committee, namely Craig and Haskell.
Blackstock:Craig. Homer Craig.
Craig. He was on it and Haskell was on it. And so they didn't even bother to read my thesis. They said they wouldn't understand it anyway. But some of the others did read it, and so Claude told me to write an abstract of it and give it to all the committee. Then he set up a date for the meeting and so forth. Brown was on it and Colby was on it and Lockenvitz was on it, Watson and Horton. So, and then two math faculty — Haskell and Craig. So the main day comes for the oral exam and I show up and Claude and Bob were there, and the others started coming in, but not all of them were there. Well Brown said he'd go out and call them and see if they wouldn't come. So he did, and he came back and said, "Well, the math people said they would come but to go ahead without them," and somebody else was late getting there, and so I was getting more nervous all the time. So I started to give my talk, you know. And so I did this and I didn't get anywhere with it until they'd stop me. And then they would ask me questions about it. And so, but I could answer them, and then they would start getting in an argument between themselves, and this was fun. And so I finally get through with all of it, and then so — with that part — and everything has gone well. And so Claude then looked around and called on people if they had any additional questions to ask. Well, then it started all over again. And this was, you know, this was really going on a long time. And so as I say, they got in an argument themselves, and ask me questions. And I'd say, "I just don't know the answer." "Yes you do too, and I'll show you that you do know the answer," so he’d walked me through something. But Brown, you know, asked such questions as, "What kind of detector did Hertz use in his electromagnetic —?"
McKinney:And then they got — oh, I remember one thing that was very interesting. You'd appreciate this. I was talking about the dielectric constant variation with frequency. It's dispersion. And I talked about the normal and anomalous dispersion. Anyway, over most of the range of electromagnetic spectrum it behaves differently than it does in the visible spectrum, where it goes in an entirely different direction. And that is called normal. All this other dispersion is called anomalous. Well I had read a good article on that published by Bell Labs. Somebody had gone from zero to X-rays and showed where all the polarizations took place and all that. So anyway, Colby called me on that. Said, "You know, that's wrong what you said." And I said, "No, it's not wrong." And so then he was really surprised when I sketched let's say from D.C. to x-rays the dielectric constant change with frequency. Well, they thought that was wonderful, you know.
Both Claude and Bob thought that I just might have a hard time with the oral exam, you know, and I don't think they had any great confidence in my ability in theoretical physics. Earlier, Claude had called me in and had given me a severe grilling on electromagnetic theory and ended up saying, "Well, you know more electromagnetic theory than I thought you did." But he said, "In case you're having a bad time" — because they had had some students that had a bad time in physics that year, you know, and had been sort of dismissed by the faculty, some people who were very good physicists but really flopped in orals but then they got their degree all right but — And so anyway, he says, "I'll ask you a question about this, so be sure you can answer this question." And Watson, I'm sure they had teamed together — said, "I'll ask you a question about this." And so I said, "Fine," so I was prepared for both of those. But the exam — you know, time was going on and on here, and so they came to Watson and Horton's chance to asked questions, they both passed. They said that everything had gone very well. They said it couldn't have been better. They said, "It was just like you were reading the answers out of the book."
Blackstock:When the committee has a good time you know that the exam is going well.
Blackstock:And it sounds like they were having a gay old time.
McKinney:Yeah. And so then they get to the end and Claude said, "Well, I believe that concludes everything." Dr. Brown says, "Oh no it doesn't." He says, "Anybody getting a Ph.D. is supposed to know everything, and so I've got a few questions," and so he had some questions that had nothing to do with physics, but of course this engendered lots of discussion you know. But it was something that he had read probably that morning you know in the newspaper or something. And so then he said, "Well, go on out and wait in the hall," and I go out in the hall. A very short time. And so they came out, led by Brown. He always shuffled. Do you remember Dr. Brown?
Blackstock:No. I never had him for a course.
McKinney:Okay. He shuffled. And he wasn't all that old. But anyway, he shuffles out and says, "Well, we decided to pass you." He says, "We were afraid that you would go jump off the tower if we failed you, and so we're going to pass you." And so I thanked them you know, and the rest of them congratulated me. And so I was heading home, you know. Well Dr. Brown gets on the phone and calls my wife and he said, "Oh, Chester just did great." Said, "Let him have his way for a day or two, and then you can clamp down on him again." Anyway, it was a lot of fun and it went on until dark. It was all afternoon. I think Claude and I published four or five papers from my dissertation.
Blackstock:Well, yeah, I think you've covered who at that school had the greatest influence on your future. Well, I guess maybe I ought to just let that question go and let you answer it. I'm not sure whether I could summarize from what you've said.
Well, it was several people, but, you know, Horton naturally and Watson, but Brown really. Brown was sort of my mentor, you know. And so that was about it. I didn't really get any significant help from other people on the staff at DRL on my thesis work on either master's or doctorate work, and I don't think they knew much about it. By the way —
Blackstock:Now was all of this work sponsored? That is, the reports went to– Who was the sponsor?
McKinney:It was actually Navy sponsored work and it was through APL Johns Hopkins. And in fact they had a program that — see, I was under a program where I spent full time on research — I mean a full half time or whatever it was on research. And so it was not like so many of our people had to do later. You know, they sort of did their thesis work on the side, you know, because they were working on something else. But I was paid to work on my thesis under this contract. They had a special program then, that they no longer had after a few years, but among other things they had, they wanted you to submit your thesis or your dissertation to them to consider being published by APL Johns Hopkins if accepted. And they did, and they published, I don't know, like 1500 copies of it, and the Lab had to retype it and I got a bunch of copies of it for that reason. And then they came back and wanted more copies later on, and Claude and I were surprised that there were so many people interested in this topic. And then it dawned on us finally that they were interested in it from the optical standpoint. One of the modes that you can use has very little loss, because the electric vector is tangential to the walls of the cylindrical waveguide and so forth. They were interested in it from the fiber optics standpoint.
Blackstock:Well as soon as you mention that, it's a slow waveguide and therefore radiates and it's pretty lossy, but you found a way to avoid that?
McKinney:Oh, it wasn't terribly lossy if you —
Blackstock:By loss I mean loss due to radiation.
McKinney:Yeah. No, when I was just making reference to waveguides, these were fairly short waveguides. You know, it's a tube this long and so forth, so it was kind of hard to measure the loss in things like Lucite. But more of a problem was coupling. There were different things you'd do to the rod to make it radiate better, essentially tapering it.
Blackstock:This was G, graduate school doctorate, and H, other academic activities. When you were a student did you ever do any teaching?
McKinney:No, I did not.
Blackstock:Okay. Now other training military we've covered, business or trade schools —
Blackstock:Okay. So we go to Section L, which is past professional career. After college what was your first place of employment, your first title and what did you do there?
McKinney:I've already covered that. I taught school.
Blackstock:Yeah, that's right. And special accomplishments that you contributed while you were there?
Blackstock:How long did you stay there, you've covered that, one year?
Blackstock:What year did you leave, in 1941?
McKinney:It was 1941. That was the first job I had. Then I went into the military service for four years.
Blackstock:Then where did you go, and so we go back through this and you did the military and I suppose what we need to do is to start with your first job after your Ph.D.
McKinney:Yes, that sounds good. My first job after I got my Ph.D. was at Texas Tech. There weren't too many —
So May 19— ?
Blackstock:‘50, you got your doctorate and you applied for a job at Texas Tech?
McKinney:I applied to lots of places, lots of schools, and most of them wrote nice letters in response but they didn't have any openings but they'd keep my name on file. There weren't many jobs available in 1950. Things were just about to burst open in terms of job opportunities very shortly thereafter.
Blackstock:Well this was Korean War period.
McKinney:Yeah, and that was the thing at that time really, or it was a big factor. So I wrote to a number of schools and got a few offers, but they were not in particularly good schools. I wrote some letters to industry and got offers there but decided not to take them. But the one that I did decide to take was at Texas Tech. It didn't pay the most, but the President of the school interviewed me in Austin and said they were looking for somebody that would do some research for —
Blackstock:How big was the physics department there?
McKinney:About seven at that time, and the school had a very good curriculum for a B.S. degree in physics. Everybody had to take the same courses; in many ways I liked it better than at Texas where you had a choice of courses. And so people that got a B.S. degree in physics at Texas Tech had a very good undergraduate background. I had about decided to stay on at the Lab to work in acoustics. Richard Lane wanted me to work with him there, and I worked that summer because I needed a job for the summer, since I'd lost the GI Bill now. I worked on hydroacoustic filters that summer, which was my first acoustics work really. But then when I got this job offer from Texas Tech I went out there and —
Blackstock:And you started in the fall?
McKinney:Yes. The first of the school year. And I liked my teaching work there. I taught freshman physics, several sections, and introduction to theoretical physics as a graduate course. But we had only two graduate students.
Blackstock:Page? [textbook “Introduction to Theoretical Physics” by Leigh Page]
Yes, Page — But I ended up just teaching it as a bunch of different topics that I put together. But I started off using Page. You know, they hadn't had anything in LaGrangian mechanics and they hadn't had anything much in the way of wave equations and — or radiation from electrons. A lot of things that they hadn't had, and so I just sort of built up a course that filled in the gaps.
Blackstock:Now this was undergraduate?
Blackstock:This was a graduate course.
McKinney:First year graduate course. Linda did not like Lubbock at all. Her health was bad, she had bronchitis bad, the sand was bad, the wind was bad, the land was flat, and so I thought well come summertime let's see if I can go back to Austin and work. So we did that. I wrote Richard Lane and he said I could work in the summertime, so I did go back to Austin and I worked again in low-frequency acoustics on solion transducers there and did a study on that and wrote a report on that, and then went back to school out there (Lubbock). Richard kept trying to get me to come here full time. I had some problems out there where they had promised that they would buy some equipment for me and then they didn't and didn't tell me about it. So I was not happy with that, but I taught a second year there and came back to Austin in the summer that year. Later I worked on mine-hunting sonar, which the Lab had just gotten into at Lake Travis.
This was the summer of —?
McKinney:Summer of '52.
McKinney:And so I told Richard I'd come back full time, and so —
Blackstock:So you were at Texas Tech for two years.
McKinney:Two and a half years. I went back and taught the next semester until they could get somebody to replace me. And I only taught that theoretical physics course one year because there weren't any graduate students after that. And we didn't have many physics majors. Bob Duff and Ralph Freewood were two physics majors that worked for me when I was putting together stuff to teach a course in electronics for physics majors. Both of them got their Ph.D.s at Harvard and they were quite good. Anyway, we just decided to come back to Austin, and really the reason we came back to Austin —
Blackstock:So you came back to work fulltime at DRL in January of '53.
McKinney:And the reason we came back was because we wanted to live in Austin. And so I switched fields from electromagnetics to acoustics. Richard told me I could continue my electromagnetics work, but I never had time to, so I never did any more work in that field.
Okay. So now we need to — you've covered a few things about — no, I guess you haven't — about DRL and ARL. You had worked at DRL as a student, but it was primarily on projects that you and Horton had sort of worked out together.
McKinney:Yeah, and Watson for my master's degree
Blackstock:But it wasn't — I don't know what you'd call it, projects that the Lab had contracts to do work on that had to be developed.
Blackstock:This is now what you're starting to embark on.
Blackstock:Okay. So this was February 1953, and when I first came to the Laboratory seventeen years later, 1969-1970, I guess it was January 1970 was my first part-time work here, you were already the Director. Now when did you become Director?
McKinney:I became Director in 1965. Let's see, I became Assistant Director in '59, Associate Director in '63 and Director in '65.
Blackstock:Okay. All right. So Assistant Director in '63. So ten years —
McKinney:Assistant Director —
Blackstock:...Chester's full-time employment back at DRL in February 1953, and he said that he became Assistant Director of the Laboratory in 1959, Associate Director in 1963 and Director in 1965. Is that right?
Blackstock:Okay. So — and you retired as Director in 1980.
Blackstock:Okay. So with those as signposts, why don't you just go ahead. Speak about whatever you want to about your years at DRL.
McKinney:Well, as we just said, from the time I came back in '53 to work fulltime at DRL, this was where I made my career. I spent all of my time here and not anywhere else, essentially. And my first work was in the field of high-resolution, high-frequency, mine-hunting sonar, and my job as given to me very specifically by Richard Lane was to get a program started. They had money for a program but were not really turning out much, and he thought the money would not last unless they were productive in a fairly short time. So that was my assignment, and I didn't have the slightest idea what to do. We had to figure out something to do and we did, and we had some good luck on some things, but I won't bother with all of that. But we had a good program that lasted for many years here in high-resolution sonar, and we still have a high-resolution sonar program but it's not necessarily in mine hunting anymore. And then Dr. Lloyd Jeffress, who was doing psychoacoustics work here at the Lab, also got involved in mine-hunting exercises and training and made some major contributions there, and that was a big help to us in getting our program going. And Wilson Nolle was doing some fine basic work in the acoustics properties of sediment; so our program was growing in strength and I think our reputation was growing, and I think it was very helpful to us to be host to the Acoustical Society meeting here in '54 and the Underwater Sound Symposium that same year and so forth. And —
Blackstock:Now in those early years did you have graduate students working with you, and do you remember some of them?
McKinney:Oh yes. Oh, some of them were people like Loyd Hampton, Ralph Owens, and Charlie Anderson. I'd have to go through the list of employees to be complete. And then Lloyd Jeffress had lots of psychoacoustics psychology students in his work and they all had undergraduate degrees coming in.
Blackstock:Was this including Chuck Wood?
McKinney:Well, oddly enough, Chuck was one of the people that worked for Lloyd Jeffress. Actually Chuck did his dissertation under another person and was one of the rare ones that — or maybe the only one — who worked for Dr. Jeffress but did not do his dissertation with him. Most of the students who worked for him also got their Ph.D.s. So anyway, life for me sort of rocked along at DRL.
Blackstock:It was still DRL at that time.
McKinney:DRL at that time. And in the meantime one of the things that was happening was that Richard Lane wanted to start a company which later became known as Tracor and so he started that with people from the Lab here including himself, me, Frank McBee, Jess Stanborough, and a lawyer in town, and when they wanted to really make it into a full blown company, full time company, I elected to stay at the Lab and so I did.
Blackstock:They started out as Texas Research Associates?
McKinney:Well, it actually started out as Associated Consultants and Engineers, A, C & E, and then changed the name to Texas Research Associates. In the meantime there was another spinoff company from DRL. It was Textran by Obie Baltzer, Marcel Gres, Gene Smith, and others, and those two merged about 1962 or '63 to form Tracor. But at any rate, the main thing was that Richard was slowly pulling away from the Lab, and that's when in 1959 I became Assistant Director when he started spending most of his time at Tracor, or TRA. And my responsibilities had been steadily growing in terms of different programs that came under my supervision. And so —
Blackstock:Where was Charles Anderson in this?
McKinney:Charlie Anderson worked here at this Lab, I mean at DRL. He was in my group at work, but he also did some architectural acoustics work for Richard on the side, as did Gene Mikeska and a few people like that. And so our programs were growing in size and we were very tight on space and eventually we got approval to build a new building here. The University put up the money, which they would recover through a special overhead charge over a fifteen-year period. So we moved into our new building in 1967, September of 1967. And —
Blackstock:Now let me ask you. Boner was still the Director until '69?
McKinney:Boner was — of course in 1945 when the Lab started, Boner was full-time Director, but probably before 1950 – now I'd have to look up the exact date — he was prevailed upon to take the job as the Dean of Arts and Sciences. And so he agreed to take it on a half-time basis, which he did. He also had started the office of government-sponsored projects on the campus too, which was now headed by Jens Jacobsen or essentially headed by Jens. Boner's rise in the administration was pretty rapid. He became full-time Dean of Arts and Sciences and then he was made Dean of the University as a special case. And then he became Vice President of The University System. Then he had some health problems and retired, and I forget what year that was, but it was before '65.
Blackstock:Now his sons Charles and Richard never worked at DRL?
McKinney:That's right. They never did work here. And so in —
Blackstock:They worked with him on his consulting?
McKinney:Well that's right, in the consulting business. Boner had done acoustical consulting before the war in several places. He wasn't doing much of it after the war, but Richard Lane started doing acoustical consulting work and it was called Boner and Lane. Boner primarily lent his name to the group. And then after Boner retired as Director of DRL he got into the acoustical consulting in a pretty big way and he brought his two sons, Charles and Richard, into that with him. But it was really from Richard's consulting work that started TRA, and so forth, which became Tracor — because Richard had done some consulting work for a refinery in Houston and they asked him to do some more work; they needed a sound system and they were having difficulty finding anybody that would bid on the project of this distributed sound system. Richard asked them if he and some of his friends could do it and they said, "Yes, but you have to form a company." And so we formed a company with an investment of five thousand dollars. I thought it was just going to be a part-time company, but it turned out that Richard had grander things in mind and so it became a major company.
Blackstock:Okay. Now there were — and you mentioned this early on, I remember many Acoustical Society meetings when people from DRL were giving papers on solions. But apparently you got in on that at an early time. You didn't continue with that?
Blackstock:You got involved in the high frequency —
McKinney:I worked on solions a little bit in 1950 and all the time the summer of 1951, but I never did any more work in that field.
Blackstock:And so the high-resolution sonar became your major interest.
Blackstock:Okay, now I've heard people speak of the acoustics division or acoustics part of DRL. That implies that there were other parts of DRL that were something besides acoustics.
McKinney:Well the work that really Richard got started, the first work, the acoustics work that he got started was some work from the Naval Ordnance Laboratory out at White Oak, and this turned out to be on an acoustic mine mechanism, and the Lab program grew here, and they worked both on sensors and also on the processing part of the system. That work continued really for many years in one form or another long past the time I became Director of the Lab. Then in 1950 DRL got a little work for Wilson Nolle in the acoustic properties and sediments, $50,000 a year, and $50,000 a year in psychoacoustic for Jeffress. And then the Navy had a summer study on mine-hunting sonar out at San Diego in '51 and the Navy agreed to send about four or five people from here to attend that summer study, which was under the National Academy of Sciences. It was the Committee on Undersea Warfare. So that got started in –- well, anyway, people like George Wood, Reuben Wallace, Mark Mechler, Claude Horton –- anyway, several people from here went out for that summer study and they did a good job. So when they came back, George Wood was able to talk the Navy into sponsoring a program here and building a test station here out at Lake Travis.
Blackstock:Oh my word. So that was the beginning of the Lake Travis Test Station?
McKinney:That's right. And so that program then grew quite a bit and it turns out that most of the acoustics work at the Lab spun off from that mine hunting sonar program really. But we got other work. The Army came to us to look into buried mine detection for land mines, and Claude Horton worked on that some and others did too, but that work played out after a few years, but it was a nice program for several years. And then another Navy outfit, because of the work of the Lab in the field of acoustic filters, hydroacoustic filters, gave the Lab a contract and then somebody else in the Navy saw that we — well, ONR comes in here about this stage. They hadn't been sponsoring any of our work up to then, but a young officer there thought that the work that the Lab was doing was very interesting and so he persuaded the Lab to take the contract. And so we got started doing work for ONR and that's continued in many aspects since then. And later work in acoustic torpedo counter-countermeasures was given to us because of our work on mines and radar. So the acoustic program grew much more rapidly than anything else. The aeromechanic work shrunk down and eventually phased out about 1965 or something like that. The radar division was very strong at first, it was the strongest one at first, and it expanded. And that work kept on for a long time as long as there was some really good leadership here at the Lab in that area. This work was under APL (Applied Physics Lab) Johns Hopkins and then they got into satellite navigation systems and they got into detection of nuclear blasts, electromagnetic pulse detection. And we got in some chaff work and chaff dispersal work. They had a strong group as long as Obie Baltzer and Julian Wright were here, and when they left to form Textran the worked started downhill until it was sort of built back up again later by Arnold Tucker in the work that he was doing in navigation and satellites.
Blackstock:ARL has a — well, at some point I need to ask you about the move from the old DRL quarters behind Texas Memorial Museum to its present place out at the Balcones Research Center. But before we get to that, do you want to say something about the relationship of DRL/ARL to the other Navy-supported University Laboratories? I'm speaking particularly about the Ordnance Research Lab at Penn State and, at that time, the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps and, then also Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington. Does this consortium ever meet and compare notes or —?
McKinney:Not too much. They do now I think more than they did when I was Director. We were all, you know, good friends, did a lot of talking and all of that and I think there was a good exchange of information between us, but it was only later when there was a consortium or a group that met where Navy Labs and these other Labs were represented and to have a discussion, but not just the University Labs. And they may, the University Labs, may have some sort of meeting occasionally or annually or something now, but I don't know, so I can't really address that question.
Blackstock:During the time you were Director of ARL, John Johnson was director at — or there must have been some overlap between the time he was Director at Penn State or ORL (that later became ARL). Did you ever get on the telephone to John and say, "Gee, we need to do such-and-such," or was it just personal connections and friendly relations at ASA meetings?
McKinney:No, I don't know that I ever had any discussion with him about any particular problems or something or joint projects or something.
Blackstock:So there never was a joint — that is work for both ARLs were working on the same project and interchanging information?
McKinney:Not really. ARL Penn State was heavy, almost entirely, in torpedo work, and we had a pretty good program here, but nothing like the size of their program. They had a pretty good-size program on torpedo countermeasures. So we had to interact with them — I mean, you know, it’s logical and necessary that we do that, because it's the counter-countermeasures that have to be incorporated into the torpedoes at some point.
Blackstock:Okay. Let's come back to the move from the old DRL buildings on campus to the present location at Balcones Research Center.
McKinney:Well, our Lab was growing and the acoustics program had been growing particularly fast. We were short of space, and people were crowded. We were getting space any way we could, we could get Quonset huts, and so we put up all those we had room for. Eventually, I had to move some of this stuff out to Balcones, and I should mention that somewhere along the line — and I forget what year it was, maybe it was about the time I became Director or a little before, the Military Physics Research Laboratory, which was already out at Balcones Research Center, asked to merge with us, and they did and became a part of DRL. I would have to look in the literature to see what date that was. We were hard up for space, and we had talked to The University but we got no encouragement at all, and we were trying to figure out some way to get a building. And the University wasn't at all interested in giving us a building, but they did like the land where we were, which was 2.7 acres or something like that, and that was good choice land. It hadn't been when the Lab was started because it was way off at the edge of the campus, but now it wasn't at the edge of the campus.
Blackstock:They wanted a place to put their Law School.
McKinney:Oh, they already had that.
Blackstock:Oh, the Law School was already there?
McKinney:Yeah. Or the first new Law School building was up. And so then somebody came up with the idea that they were going to build a new engineering building, electrical engineering I believe —
Blackstock:This was the Engineering Science Building.
McKinney:Engineering Science Building, and that DRL would have some space there. And so Boner agreed to that, and I was sort of dismayed at the time because I thought it wasn't enough space. We were already bursting at the seams. And then, for us, a lucky thing happened in that there was student unrest on the campuses around the country and Dr. Hackerman [President of UT Austin], Norman Hackerman, was concerned about this, and so he called me up one day and said, "Chester, if you'll talk to Boner and get him to write a letter to me for you to not move into that campus building — which he was afraid would cause trouble and so forth or be a hotspot for protests — but either go to Balcones [Balcones Research Center, later renamed Pickle Research Campus, about 10 miles from the main UT Austin campus] or to Brackenridge tract." And I said, "Oh that sounds wonderful to me." And he said we would use the same amount of money that's going to go into the Engineering Science Building, that portion that's allocated to you, to DRL, you can have that to build a building. We were elated. We got Dr. Boner to write the letter since he was Director of the Lab, and Hackerman approved it. We first tried to sell him very hard on building our Lab at the Brackenridge tract, and we had picked out a delightful spot up on the high bluff there. Anyway, they ended up saying we should go to Balcones and they gave us land out here. And so then we were hit by sort of a shock when Dr. Hackerman told me, "Now you have to find somebody to pay for it." And he said, "We'll put up the money all right, but we have to be guaranteed that we'll get our money back." So this was a hard job to do, because we needed someone — maybe a sponsor or someone sponsor to sign the paper. And no one — you know, we were a multi-contract lab and so nobody really had the big contract here. And so we were very fortunate in that — because we were doing everything we could to get somebody to do this and we were not having all that much luck, and we decided that we would try to get an office in the Bureau of Ordnance to sign it, and so we had it set up, and Captain Krick and I and Dr. Boner went to Washington. And Dr. Boner wasn't really very active in any of these things, but we go in and we're waiting to see the person that we have an appointment with when a Navy Captain in an office there comes rushing out and says, "Dr. Boner, don't you remember me? I'm Clarence Ayres’ son-in-law." [Clarence Ayres was a longtime Professor in Economics at UT Austin.]
Blackstock:Oh my God.
McKinney:"I went to school down at the University of Texas" and so forth. And so anyway, he says, "What are you all in town for?" and we explained to him what we were there for and he said, "Well come on in." He says, "I'll sign it." He signed it, and that was all it was to it.
Blackstock:So he signed and then the rest of the Navy said okay?
McKinney:Well, we just needed one to do it. Because everybody paid their share, depending on what size contract they had. It was trivial.
Blackstock:That was what, 5 percent or 2 percent?
McKinney:Oh, it was trivial. And as the Lab grew bigger and bigger, it got to be a smaller and smaller amount. It wasn't the amount of money; it was getting someone willing to sign their name. And Captain Barney Towle signed it.
Blackstock:And so you all moved out here in what part of 1967?
McKinney:In the fall of '67. And, well I already had some good sized roots out here in Navy work in some of the old magnesium plant buildings and the Military Physics Research Lab was already out here. And so when we got our new building in 1967 all of those moved into the new building.
Blackstock:At that time what was the number of employees at the Laboratory?
McKinney:I can't tell you. I'd have to look it up on the chart. If I had to guess I'd say 350 people maybe, something like that.
Okay. And did you notice —? Well, first of all there must have been a hiatus because of the move. That must have been —
Blackstock:Is that right?
McKinney:Very, very little. Almost none. We planned it out real well with everyone getting their stuff ready to come out here and there was very little interruption.
Blackstock:Okay. Now did you notice a difference in the amount, the quality or anything else about the work associated with the shift to the new quarters?
McKinney:I don't think so. But people had plenty of room then. And it was some years before we got into a space crunch again, and that was nice.
Blackstock:I've heard the story that what was foreseen did actually take place. That is, there was student unrest at The University of Texas associated with the Vietnam War, and a group of protesters did come out here. Now, what did — and I understand you met with them. And what happened?
McKinney:Well, there were student protests and I —
Blackstock:I should say, for the benefit of the readers of this document that the Balcones Research Center is 10 miles away from the main campus at the University. So it's not as though you can go across the street and picket this Laboratory; you've got to come out here in a caravan of cars of something. Well go ahead.
McKinney:Well there had been, there was student unrest going on in lots of places, and I had been concerned about this and I was keeping a file on this and had written to just about all of the universities where there had been trouble and they had been kind enough to send me a lot of literature on their particular campus problems. And I had given a paper or two on the whole business of classified research on campus. And I had been asked to come to the campus at one time and meet with protesters on campus, and I did. And that turned out very well, because they gave me a round of applause when we got through. I met them out under the shade trees on campus. Huge crowd of people. I told them I'd answer any questions they had, that —
Blackstock:Was this near the Union or where?
McKinney:Well, it was under the trees there at the corner of 24th and Guadalupe. Right in there.
Blackstock:Battle Oaks. I think that's the Battle Oaks.
McKinney:Oh, is that the Battle Oaks? So I told them, I said, "If you're looking for the enemy, you've found him, because every bit of the classified research at The University of Texas is at my Lab, and so I'll answer whatever questions you have." And we had a good time, and they cheered me at the end. Which was not what they'd done to John Silber who had talked before me about ROTC on the campus, and I thought that–
Blackstock:At the same meeting?
McKinney:And they gave him a pretty bad time.
Blackstock:And what year was this?
McKinney:I can't tell you exactly. I think that was —
Blackstock:Well, Silber left —
McKinney:If I had to guess I'd say '69, but I'm not sure of that.
Blackstock:Yeah, that could easily be.
McKinney:I'd have to look it up. I don't know what —
McKinney:Silber left in '69 I think.
McKinney:I can look up here and tell you the date that I gave my first paper on classified research on campus. I gave it to the Town and Gown Club. And so anyway, then they were going to have the students — the students were going to protest, and this was a little later than that, but not much — you know, it's pretty much the same time frame, still Vietnam. And so I got a call from the leader of the protest and he said that they thought we were on the campus, but when they got there, a sign said we'd moved out here. And I said, "Yes, that's right. We've been moved here for some months," so this was, must have been in the '67-'68 time frame or something like that. And so he said, "We plan to protest you," and I said, "Well that's fine," and he said, "But you're a long way off. How do we get there?" And I said, "Well, if you go over to such-and-such place, you can catch a bus out here that runs by the University and Balcones Research Center and then you can find us there". So then we had a protest, and things were pretty quiet, so I went out and invited them to take a tour of the Lab, told them our halls were narrow and we could only take a few at a time but we'd take everybody that wanted to go. And we did. And everything was very peaceful. So that was — we never had any other protest.
Blackstock:That's remarkable. I don't know how Penn State made out, because —
McKinney:Not too good.
Blackstock:The ORL is right smack in the middle of the campus.
Yeah, but anyway sometime I might show you that paper that I wrote on the classified research on campus. A lot of faculty people wanted me to publish that in a national journal. I might should have but — So anyway that —
Blackstock:So after the move, do you want to say anything about activities at the Laboratory in say the thirteen years after you moved out here before you retired as Director? So in other words from '67 to '80.
McKinney:Yeah. Oh, I think in some ways things really went very smooth. Our work was increasing due to the good work of the staff people. We got compliments on our work and we were using big, advanced computers and all of that, and a lot of this was due to the efforts of Loyd Hampton and Glen Ellis and people like that, but it got to the point where we were almost essentially an acoustics lab. In fact I think maybe 95 percent of our work was in the field of acoustics. I think our aerodynamics work, aeromechanic work, had gone to zero, and our radar work had gone down and our military physics work had gone down, but acoustics work had gone up. But then, as I mentioned earlier, Arnold Tucker was able to resurrect, put some life into that area of the Lab and work heavily related satellite navigation systems. But I thought things really ran on a pretty even keel. We really hadn't been too hard pressed for space.
Blackstock:What are your thoughts on — or how did you come to the decision to retire as Director?
McKinney:Well, I never did really like the administrative work of being Director. I liked the technical work. I loved working here as a whole, I'd been Director for fifteen years, I was sixty years old, I could afford, financially, to retire if I wanted to, and long before I was Director I really had most of the Lab. In fact when I became Director I already had had 95 percent of the Lab.
Blackstock:Because of being head of the acoustics?
McKinney:Well, that was correct and Dr. Boner had given me the radar division too.
Blackstock:I see, I see.
McKinney:I didn't do a very good job of it, but — and then when the Military Physics Lab merged with us, and I forget whether that was before I became Director. That came under me also, so — so I think I was just sort of tired of it.
Blackstock:When you retired as Director did you retire completely or did you–?
McKinney:Almost retired completely. I stayed — I worked part time for the next year or two to wind up some work that I had been doing for the Naval Oceanographic Office in Bay St. Louis. So I finished that work up and made a trip down to the Labs in Australia and New Zealand and places, but I was mostly retired. And then I was offered a job as a liaison scientist at ONR London and went over there in '83, in June of '83 and stayed until, I think, October of '84.
Blackstock:And as I recall, you stayed very active on some Navy committees.
McKinney:Throughout my career at ARL and after I had retired as Director I spent a lot of my time on Navy advisory committees. These included the Underwater Sound Advisory Group, an ONR-based committee, and I served on it a good many years at different times and was Chair at one time. Then from 1959 to 1972 I served on the Mine Advisory Committee, which is a committee of the National Academy of Sciences, and then they disbanded that committee and the Committee on Undersea Warfare in 1972 and formed the Naval Studies Board. I started serving on it in 1979 and served until 1992. And so I've served on lots of their special projects and studies and so forth. And then I served on some of the boards of the Naval Research Advisory Committee.
I know at one time you were very interested in the fact that — you felt that, not the acoustics literature but the acoustics textbooks situation needed some attention; that we needed more books on acoustics.
Blackstock:Do you want to say a few words about that?
McKinney:Well that was one of many projects I did for the Naval Studies Board. ONR wanted this done and I had proposed it at one time, and we did a survey of just about every place that employed any people in underwater acoustics and wrote a report. And unfortunately — and I largely wrote that report, in fact I think I wrote every word of it — I finished that report and we had gotten a lot of good information and people had been very helpful in submitting responses to the survey, but that occurred right at the time I was going to ONR London. So I turned in the report, but I was not here to see that, you know, push it to — Because what we really wanted was for the Navy to sponsor the writing of these books. And the Navy was willing one officer said, "We'll sponsor one book a year," and that's pretty good. I said the problem is not to find the money but to find the people who will do it. So that still is a good report, but nothing much happened. I was gone for a year and a half. It had been sort of my project and I wasn't here to push it. And so not too much happened there. And now the Office of Naval Research of the Navy is getting interested in doing the same thing, and we've given them copies of that Naval Studies Board report. It was a good idea, but it didn't come off too well. I think we published one or two books under that program. Bob Beyer did a book — translation — under that program.
Blackstock:Well, this brings us to publications. Did you ever write a book or have something published?
McKinney:Well, I never did write a book, and I wish I had, but I didn't. And I've had a lot of publications and in my resume, if you count up all the things I list there, which is everything I have written just about, it comes to some 270 documents.
McKinney:I published a fair number of papers in JASA and other physics journals and some in engineering journals, but of course a lot of my published work was on classified material — and of course a lot of publications are in symposium proceedings and things of that nature. And then some Lab reports. I don't have an exact count on all those, but I think it's about 270.
Blackstock:Okay. Now the next topic is family, but before we go into that do you want to say anything more on your professional career?
McKinney:I think not. We've talked a lot more than I thought we would. But I've had a good time being associated with ARL. We changed the name of it to ARL (Applied Research Laboratories) at some point. We thought it would be easier to get sponsorship and work other than the defense work, but as it turned out defense is still our major sponsor. In fact the Navy is still our major sponsor. It's been a lot of fun working there. Wonderful people.
Blackstock:Okay. And finally, what is your present marital status?
McKinney:Well, I've been married fifty-two years.
Blackstock:So you had your 50th anniversary a couple years ago.
McKinney:I've been married fifty-four years. I was married in 1948, fifty-four years.
Blackstock:Yes. So you had your 50th anniversary a few years ago.
Blackstock:And your spouse's name you've already said is Linda.
McKinney:Yeah, Linda Hooten McKinney.
Blackstock:And your spouse's occupation?
McKinney:Housewife and mother and grandmother most of her adult life. She did work one year when I was in graduate school. Other than that she's been a homemaker.
Blackstock:When and where did you meet your spouse?
McKinney:I met my spouse, my wife, when she was born, because we lived in a small town. Everybody knew everybody else.
Blackstock:...the recorded interview with Chester McKinney. When and where did you meet your spouse, we found out that Chester met his spouse when she was born. When and where did you get married? And you've already said in 1948.
Blackstock:And was that in Cooper?
McKinney:Yes, we got married in Cooper, a small town. As someone said when we got married, everybody then in the town was related to everybody else. The Hooten family had many branches and there were lots of McKinneys too. And that was in the fall of '48. She had just gotten her bachelor's degree.
Blackstock:Where did she go to school?
McKinney:She went two years to North Texas State College or University.
Blackstock:Was that TSCW or —?
Blackstock:It was North Texas.
Blackstock:Texas State Teachers College it was called then.
McKinney:Well, initially it was. I don't know when they changed their name.
Blackstock:It's now North Texas University.
McKinney:Yeah, it's a State University. And she also went to school one summer in Mexico at Guanajuato State University there, and then she did her last two years here at The University of Texas.
McKinney:And that's when I started going with her or seeing her.
Blackstock:She got her degree in what?
McKinney:English and Spanish. And she started school down here in September of '46, and I was in graduate school at that time.
Blackstock:So you had known each other in Cooper and you got reacquainted here in Austin.
McKinney:Yes, I had taught her in high school. She was a freshman in high school.
McKinney:And so —
Blackstock:Okay, now do you have any children?
McKinney:Yes, we have two daughters, Margaret and Kem. Margaret is divorced. She was born in 1951. And Kem was born in 1954 and she's married also. Margaret has three boys, seventeen, fifteen, and fourteen I believe, and Kem, and her husband Dave, have twins who are nearly thirteen years old. We are very fortunate to have children and grandchildren living in the same town with us. We've had a great deal of pleasure in having the children spend time with us in our home, spend the night or weekend, and we spent a lot of time going to grandchildren's athletic events and so forth. And so it's been a great pleasure.
Blackstock:Well, this question is there anything special about your children you want to mention, but I guess you've covered that. Do you want to say anything more about that?
McKinney:No. As I say, Margaret, the one with the three boys, lives about a half a mile from us and that's convenient. The other daughter lives about a 10-minute drive from us.
Blackstock:Now that wasn't always the case, was it? Somebody had lived in Colorado, wasn't it?
McKinney:Yes. Margaret and her husband and boys lived in Colorado Springs. She had gone to the Colorado College in Colorado Springs, and that's where she met her future husband. And after she had graduated and he had graduated, they got married and she lived there for some years. In fact I think they were married maybe seventeen years or something like that. Kem studied at Trinity University and transferred to The University of Texas in Austin. She's an artist, and then she went to Chicago Art Institute for her master's degree and it was in Chicago where she met her future husband who was a trader on the Mercantile Exchange. When he retired, they moved to Texas with their twins who were quite young.
Blackstock:Okay. Personal interests. What's your favorite form of entertainment?
McKinney:Oh, I don't know. Not much of anything really. I enjoy my work and I watch some TV, read some, but I don't have a —
Blackstock:Do you have a favorite author or a book?
McKinney:Not really. I mainly like — if the books are not technical books, I like books that are about science and written by scientists and so forth, and I have quite a collection of those and enjoy those. Those are about the only books that I read these days. Years ago C. B. Snow was one of my favorites.
Blackstock:I was just going to ask about him, yes.
McKinney:And so I have all of his books and enjoy reading them but —
Blackstock:Did you ever read a book called Live with Lightning?
McKinney:Live with Lightning? No.
Blackstock:It was about a physicist who got involved in the Manhattan Project I guess during the war, but after — it was —
Blackstock:Okay. Well I'll try to see if I can figure out where that came from. Do you like popular history like Steven Ambrose's books?
McKinney:Oh yeah. I thought Undaunted Courage was real good and I like books like that, but as I say in general I am more likely to read books by Stephen Weinberg or a recent book about Alfred Loomis, Tuxedo Park, which is a very readable book. Mostly about the Radiation Lab at MIT.
Blackstock:Did you by any chance see the play Copenhagen?
McKinney:No. No, I've read a lot about it, but I have never seen it, and probably won't.
Blackstock:Movie stars or movies?
McKinney:I seldom go to a movie. It's not that I have anything against them, but I don’t attend.
Blackstock:Music, singer, songs?
McKinney:No. There is a lot of music I like. I like the symphony, like the lyric opera.
Blackstock:Do you go to the Austin Symphony?
McKinney:Yeah, we've had season tickets for I don't know how many years. Same thing with the opera, ever since it started. We support KMFA, the radio station, and I like all kinds of music except modern rock and roll music, which I do not care for, but I like —
Blackstock:Austin's classical music has come a long way. I remember hearing the Austin Symphony play a program in Gregory Gym oh, about 1949 or '50 or thereabouts and it was awful.
McKinney:Well, in my time, since I've lived in Austin I can remember them playing at a drive-in theater. So yes, it's come a long way. The present conductor, Peter Bay, is just excellent I think, superb. Austin is very fortunate to have him.
Blackstock:Well they're finally in a hall that's nice really, really nice.
McKinney:Oh yeah. It's quite a professional orchestra now.
McKinney:Oh, I watch TV at night some, and I like British mysteries and British comedies and you know things like Masterpiece Theater.
Blackstock:When you were at ONR London did you watch a lot of BBC there?
McKinney:Well yes. I watched some. In London it was so easy to go to plays that were not too expensive, and so we went to a lot of plays there.
McKinney:I watch some football, and that's about it, but not much of that. I watch The University of Texas football games.
Blackstock:Art or artists?
McKinney:I know nothing about art. I have a daughter that's an artist, but I don't know anything about art.
Blackstock:I don't know what quote means.
McKinney:No, I don't know either. But anyway, I don't have a favorite quote, but there's probably many that I ought have as favorite quotes.
Blackstock:What are your hobbies today?
McKinney:I don't really have any hobbies today, as such. I seem to keep very, very busy with just trying to keep up with things, so I really don't practice any hobby. I'm not a hunter or a fisherman or a golfer or anything like that, or tennis or anything, so I'm pretty much a do-nothing person.
Blackstock:And what are your plans for the future?
Well, my plans for the future are very explicit. I am eighty-two years old, nearly eighty-three, and so I would like to — I am not going to live but a few more years anyway — so I would like to live long enough to finish up some of the things I'm working on which include a couple of writing projects and sorting out and getting my files in shape. I think here at the Lab, ARL, I've got twenty boxes of papers that need to be sorted out. I'll get them sorted out and then they can throw them away as sorted out files when I am gone – which they will do, and properly.
Blackstock:Is there anything else you would like to add?
McKinney:Well, let me think. In talking about things that I do, it's not exactly a hobby, but I get a lot of enjoyment out of being a member of Town and Gown Club here in town. I've been a member just about forty years and I've served as officer in that for some time, and in recent times I have been working on putting together material to celebrate the 100th year of the club. So I get a kick out of that. Linda and I also participate in the LAMP program, that's Learning Activities for Mature People, and she attends much more than I do. I think we talked about ONR London, didn't we? Yeah, we covered that. One of the things that I was going to mention, and David I really think it ought to be in the list of questions, just because to me it sort of normally comes up, is two things, two questions that you might ask Hank Bass about adding. One is that when you're going through where we did various things, you know the jobs we held, what did we consider to be our contribution that each one of them. Because I think people as they get older tend to go back and think about that more than they did maybe at the time it was happening. And the other thing is that about the honors that they have received, and it seems to me like that's a logical thing in these oral histories.
Blackstock:I think that's right. So why don't I ask you those questions?
Well, I don't know. I think we have sort of hit it one way or the other on contributions and so forth, but in my case my honors are not many and so it's easy to cover. When I retired I did receive the Navy's Distinguished Public Service Medal and I was very proud of that, and then I got the Bushnell Medal from the American Defense Preparedness Association. And then later from the IEEE Ocean Engineering Society I got their something or other Distinguished Technical Achievement Award. I mentioned earlier in here that some years ago I was elected an Honorary Fellow of the British Institute of Acoustics, and at that time I think I was the only living American that was an Honorary Fellow. And then in very recent times, only a year or so ago, ARL or The University of Texas named a building for me, the McKinney wing, which was added to the building at Applied Research Laboratories, and I'm very proud of that — particularly since I did not give the University several million dollars, which is usually required to get a building named for you, or be dead, and I'm not quite dead yet.
Blackstock:One of the things I could have asked you when you talked about hobbies, were you ever interested in genealogy, your family history?
McKinney:Not really. Well, yes and no. In terms of being a good person or skilled in genealogy I am not and I don't spend effort on it. One thing that I have done as I get the opportunity, is collect material on my family, my ancestors, and that's been fun, and I have a stack of stuff on that which is about a foot high, papers that relate to family history. And for my grandchildren I have tried to write my memoirs, telling them all of the stories that I remember my parents and grandparents told me, and then things that happened in my life. And I'm very wordy in that regard, because I've written some thousand typed pages and I'm about halfway through my life.
Blackstock:That sounds like an excellent hobby. That is something that is really keeping you —
McKinney:But I'll never finish it.
Blackstock:Well, that's okay. You said — was it your father who came from Mississippi?
Blackstock:And he was born in 1884 did you say?
McKinney:No, let's see. My father was born in 1882, and he was born in Marshall County, which is near Holly Springs. I mean, Holly Springs is in Marshall County, Mississippi – that's northern Mississippi close to Memphis – and his father served in the Civil War.
Blackstock:I was just going to ask if he had maybe been in the Civil War. Survived it?
McKinney:Yes, survived. He was wounded. He went in I think when he was maybe fourteen or fifteen years old, and volunteered, and his father then had sent a slave with him and told him to go down and get the best horse in the lot and go with him and look after his son. My dad said that evidently he thought the slave was smarter than the son was and that he'd — So anyway, and they both came back.
Blackstock:Where was your — this was your grandfather. Was he wounded, do you know?
McKinney:I forget. Oh, I think he was wounded more than once, but he was in a bunch of different battles. I think everybody that served in the Confederate Army, maybe the Union Army too, was wounded at one time or another.
Blackstock:The casualties were something.
McKinney:Yeah. You know, the war went on so long and those were such major battles that they fought that they could hardly get through the war without being wounded or killed. I had a cousin that was killed in the Civil War, and he kept a diary which was published later, but he was killed at Chickamauga and — but he kept a diary that was published by the University of Mississippi.
Blackstock:Well Chester, I want to thank you very, very much for submitting to this multi-hour interrogation, and I found your answers and your comments fascinating, and I think this is a great record to give to the Acoustical Society and I'm sure the Committee on Archives and History will be very, very happy to have it.
Oh, thank you. I'm very honored to be one of the ones included in this program. I am pleased that they are doing it, and most of the people have — a great many of the people I'm sure that they are interviewing have a much more distinguished career than I've ever had, and I was wondering will we ever get to hear those, you know, what's the distribution on t his, because it would be great to hear people like Leo Baranek and others, Hal Davis. I don't know who all they have on tape so far, but I'm glad they are getting these oral histories and I think that's wonderful. And as I say, I feel very honored to be one.
Blackstock:I agree with you. It would be nice to have some — to hear what the outcomes —
Yeah. And but someone would have to be able to spend some real time, volunteer time in going through some of these and picking out maybe not everything but you know choice bits from some of them, and I'm sure that the remarks of people like Mo Greenspan would be — I presume they got him.
Blackstock:I don't know. He's been dead for some years. I'm not sure how long the program has been going. Well, we'll close off here. It's now 4:38 in the afternoon on October the 22nd, 2002, and that's the end of the tape.