From the Editors 29 (2011)Engineer and Editor Juan Hart Moved El Paso Forward 29 (2011)Elizabeth Garrett: Songbird of the Southwest 29 (2011)A Passionate Life: Josephine Clardy Fox 29 (2011)Forgotten No More: Korean War POW Tells Story of Survival 29 (2011)Janice Woods Windle Treasures Family History 29 (2011)Andy and Syd Cohen: The Men Behind the Name 29 (2011)Leona Ford Washington Preserved Black History 29(2011)Ingeborg Heuser Brought Professional Ballet to City 29 (2011)Lee and Beulah Moor Left Legacy of Love 29 (2011)
From the Editors 28 (2010)Chasin’ Away the Blues: Texas Sunday Legislation 28 (2010)Simeon Hart Pioneered Local Industry 28 (2010)Felix Martinez: Southwestern Renaissance Man 28 (2010)Teresa Urrea: La Santa de Cabora Inspired Mexican Revolution 28 (2010)Utopia in Mesilla: The Shalam Colony 28 (2010)Stahmann Farms Produce Pecans on Two Hemispheres 28 (2010)Betty Mary Goetting Brought Birth Control to El Paso 28 (2010)Maud Sullivan Made El Paso Public Library a Cultural Center 28 (2010)Lucy Acosta’s Legacy Continues in LULAC 28 (2010)Belen Robles: Voice for the Latino Community 28 (2010)Toltec Club: Of Ghosts and Guests 28 (2010)
Strong Women Building a Strong City -- From the Editors 27(2008)Notable Women of El Paso 27(2009)The Chew Legacy: The Story of Herlinda Wong Chew 27(2009)Desert Nightingale: Louise Dietrich 27(2009)1909-2009: YWCA Celebrates 100 Years in El Paso 27(2009)Mabel Welch: El Paso’s First Female Architect 27(2009)Myrna Deckert Remains Modest About Achievements 27(2009)Suzie Azar Still Reaches for the Sky 27 (2009)The Moocher: Callie Fairley, First Woman Vice Detective in El Paso 27(2009)Alicia R. Chacón Came to Politics Naturally 27 (2009)Rosa Guerrero: Cultural Dynamo 27 (2009)
From the Past to the Present -- From the Editor 26 (2007/08)Yandell Boulevard Named for Prominent El Paso Physician 26 (2007/08)Japanese Immigrants Came Slowly to Borderland 26 (2007/08)World War II Affected Japanese Immigrants 26 (2007/08)Living, Breathing New Mexico Ghost Town: Hillsboro 26 (2007/08)Canutillo Developed from Land Grant 26 (2007/08)Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher 26 (2007/08)El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)Ted Karam: Lebanese Immigrant Lived American Dream 26 (2007/08)Publication Credits 26 (2007/08)
From the Director 25 (2006)First El Paso Protestant Church: St. Clement's 25 (2006)Bowie High School: Always a Bear 25 (2006)Golden Gloves Grew Out of El Paso's Love of Boxing 25 (2006)LULAC Fought Hard to Guarantee Rights 25 (2006)El Paso Women Gained Power in LULAC 25 (2006)McKelligon Canyon: From Cattle to Culture 25 (2006)Tortugas Celebrates Virgen de Guadalupe, San Juan 25 (2006)Bataan Death March and POW Camps 25 (2006)Bataan Survivors Recall Horrors 25 (2006)Anthony Family Had Five Sons in World War II 25 (2006)Sober on the Border 25 (2006)Clyde W. Tombaugh: Farm Boy Reached for the Stars 25 (2006)A Taste of Southwest Wine 25 (2006)
From the Director 24 (2005)From the Editors 24 (2005)Gypsie Davenport and May Palmer Ran Infamous Brothels 24 (2005)Pioneer Attorney William Burges Tackled Unpopular Issues 24 (2005)Richard Fenner Burges: Renaissance Man 24 (2005)Charles Kelly Wielded Power with Political 'Ring' 24 (2005)Tom Charles Wanted World to Know White Sands 24 (2005)Dripping Springs has Rich History 24 (2005)Thomas B. White Directed Innovative La Tuna for 19 Years 24 (2005)Cowboys on the Range --- Missile Range, That Is 24 (2005)Ranchers vs. the Feds: The McNew Saga 24 (2005)Mexican Repatriation in 1930s 24 (2005)White House Department Store 24 (2005)Thomason Hospital Celebrates 90 Years 24 (2005)R.E. Thomason Shaped City, State, Nation 24 (2005)
Postcards from the Past Editor's Column 23 (2004)From the Editors 23 (2004)Solomon C. Schutz Helped Bring Law and Order to El Paso 23 (2004)James Gillett Showed Courage in El Paso 23 (2004)Jim White Explored Carlsbad Caverns for Years 23 (2004)Ben Lilly: Mountain Man of the Southwest 23 (2004)Aldo Leopold Proposed Land Ethics 23 (2004)Escontrias Ranch: A Link to Hueco Tanks Park 23 (2004)Hueco Tanks is Site of Controversy 23 (2004)Marcelino Serna Became World War I Hero 23 (2004)Sam Dreben Soldiered All Over the World 23 (2004)Kern Place Neighborhood: The Man Behind the Name 23 (2004)Farah Manufacturing Now Just a Memory 23 (2004)Texas Knights of Columbus Began in El Paso 23 (2004)
Look for Us on the Web - Editor's Column 22 (2003)From the Editors 22 (2003)Victorio Fought to the Death for Homeland 22 (2003)O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead 22 (2003)S. H. Newman: Pioneer Newspaperman Fought Vice 22 (2003)Elfego Baca Lived More Than Nine Lives 22 (2003)Woman's Club Has Long Served City 22 (2003)Cathedral's Beauty Pleases 22 (2003)Albert J. Fountain's Achievements Eclipsed by Mysterious Death 22 (2003)Albert B. Fall's Career Ended in Disgrace 22 (2003)Cloudcroft Baby Sanatorium Saved Many 22 (2003)Dale Resler Worked Hard for El Paso 22 (2003)Price's Dairy Still Family Owned 22 (2003)Woodlawn Bottling Brought Pepsi to Town 22 (2003)Union Depot Witnessed Growth of El Paso 22 (2003)
We're Now on the Web --From the Editor 21(2002)From the Editors 21(2002)Downtown Opium Dens Attracted Many 21(2002)Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom for Texas Slaves 21(2002)Black Cowboys Rode the Trails, Too 21(2002)Ku Klux Klan Had Short Life in El Paso 21(2002)Mining Became Big Business in Southwest 21(2002)Smeltertown Still Exists in Memories 21 (2002)El Paso Played Important Role in the Mexican Revolution 21 (2002)Pancho Villa Led Northern Forces in Revolution 21 (2002)Soldaderas Played Important Roles in Revolution 21 (2002)Pershing, Villa Forever Linked to Columbus 21 (2002)Cristeros Became Mexican Martyrs 1926-1929 -- 21 (2002)Houchen Settlement House Helped New Arrivals 21 (2002)Otis A. Aultman Captured Border History in Pictures 21 (2002)
Hot Springs Have Long HistoryThe Building of a City -- From the Editor 20 (2001)From the Staff (Volume 20)Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy 20 (2001)Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire Terrorized Town 20 (2001)History Reveals Rivalry of Madams Etta Clark and Alice Abbott 20 (2001)Kohlberg, Krupp, Zielonka Became Business and Civic Leaders 20 (2001)Olga Kohlberg Pioneered Many Local Organizations 20 (2001)Henry Trost's Architectural Legacy Lives On 20 (2001)Sunset Heights Preserves History 20 (2001)Adolph Schwartz Built Local Retail Dynasty 20 (2001)Zach T. White Brought Progress to El Paso 20 (2001)Masons Became Leaders in Texas, El Paso 20 (2001)Smallpox Epidemic Showed Need for Hospitals20 (2001)El Paso High School Remains Classic 20 (2001)Bhutanese Architecture Distinguishes UTEP Campus 20 (2001)Elephant Butte Dam Solved Early Water Problems 20 (2001)
Pioneer Ranch became Concordia Cemetery 19 (2000)El Paso Grows Up 19 (2000)From the Staff 19 (2000)Chinese Immigrants Helped Build Railroad in El Paso 19 (2000)Volunteer Fire Department Grew into Professional Company 19 (2000)1880s Brought First Theaters to Town 19 (2000)Sisters of Charity Began Hotel Dieu Hospital 19 (2000)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso Into a Health Center 19 (2000)First Public School Built in 1884 19 (2000)Enigmatic Olivas Aoy Began School for Mexican Children 19 (2000)El Paso Public Library Began Modestly 19 (2000)Jesuits Continue to Influence Area 19 (2000)Sisters of Loretto Have Long Tradition in Southwest 19 (2000)Mormons Found Sanctuary in Mexico in 1880s 19 (2000)Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly 19 (2000)Flu Epidemic of 1918 Hit El Paso Hard 19 (2000)Early City Planners Saw Future in Scenic Drive 19 (2000)Prohibition Stimulated Economies of El Paso, Juárez 19 (2000)
The Editor's Column : The Building of a City 18 (1999)From the Editors 18 (1999)Magoffinsville Had Lasting Influence on El Paso 18 (1999)Town of El Paso Grew from Pioneer Settlements 18 (1999)Downtown El Paso Is Monument to Anson Mills 18 (1999)1848 War With Mexico Created Southwest 18 (1999)Colonel Doniphan and Volunteers Won Battle of Brazito 18 (1999)Gadsden Purchase Clarified U.S. Boundaries 18 (1999)Early Fort Bliss Occupied Pioneer Sites 18 (1999)Henry O. Flipper Paved Way for Integration of Military 18 (1999)Buffalo Soldiers Defended Western Frontier 18 (1999)El Paso Was Midpoint of Overland Mail Service 18 (1999)Salt War of 1877 Divided Southwest Residents 18 (1999)Geronimo Led Final Fight 18 (1999)Apache Indians Defended Homelands in Southwest 18 (1999)Texas Rangers Helped Keep Order on Frontier 18 (1999)Sarah Bowman and Tillie Howard: Madams of the 1800s 18 (1999)El Paso Grew Up with Arrival of Railroad 18 (1999)
Aztecs Ruled Complex, Rich Society 17 (1998)From the Editor 17 (1998)Aztec Beliefs Helped Conquer Mexico 17 (1998)Cortés Created New Order in Mexico 17 (1998)La Malinche Remains Controversial 17 (1998)Cabeza de Vaca: Travels in Texas 17 (1998)Estebán Furthered Legend of Cíbola 17 (1998)Coronado Searched for Cities of Gold 17 (1998)Oñate Conquered Desert to Explore Southwest 17 (1998)Festival Celebrates Oñate's Historic Arrival 17 (1998)Fray Garcia Left Great Legacy 17 (1998)Franciscans Brought Catholicism to Area 17 (1998)America's First Highway: El Camino Real 17 (1998)Pueblo Revolt Brought Tiguas South 17 (1998)Tigua Indians Survive 300 Years of Ordeals 17 (1998)Area Missions are Part of Living History 17 (1998)San Elizario Presidio Protected Settlers 17 (1998)Ethnic Terms Can Cause Confusion 17 (1998)
Oasis Restaurants Symbolized ‘50s Teen Scene 13 (1995)‘50s Cars Changed American Lifestyle And Image 13 (1995)Chevy Bel Air Charmed 1950 Car Buyers 13 (1995)San Jacinto Plaza Remains Heart Of Downtown El Paso 13 (1995)Smokey Bear: A Legend Is Made 13 (1995)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assaults 13 (1995)Company E Survivor Recalls Days As Prisoner Of War 13 (1995)El Paso Red Cross Essential to War Effort 13 (1995)World War II Took its Toll On The Home Front 13 (1995)Civil Air Patrol Protected Border During World War II -- 13 (1995)Quickie Divorces Granted in Juárez 13 (1995)Atomic Bomb Developed In Southwest 13 (1995)Former Crew Members On B-17s Remember Tough Times 13 (1995)Vintage Warplanes Keep Past Alive 13 (1995)The Cavalry Bugler: Essential To Horse and Man 13 (1995)Sun Carnival 1936 Style 13 (1995)H. Arthur Brown: El Paso Symphony Guru Of The ‘30s -- 13 (1995)Swing Music Helped Dispel The Blues Of The ‘30s and ‘40s -- 13 (1995)The General Store: A Hidden Treasure Of The Past 13 (1995)
Change on the Border 15 (1997)From the Editor 15 (1997)Latinos Work To Change Stereotypes In Hollywood 15 (1997)Cesar Chávez: Simple Man, People’s Hero 15 (1997)Shelter For Farm Workers Becomes Reality 15 (1997)Women’s Shelter Helps To Heal The Pain 15 (1997)Home Schools Become Popular Alternative 15 (1997)Renovation May Revive Downtown El Paso 15 (1997)Title IX Changed Women's Sports 15 (1997)Special Olympics Shine In El Paso 15 (1997)La Fe Clinic Serves South El Paso 15 (1997)ASARCO Works To Clean Up Its Act 15 (1997)A Growing Phenomenon: Single Fathers 15 (1997)Stepfamilies Become More Numerous 15 (1997)Teens Rebel Against Authority 15 (1997)Comics Retain Popularity 15 (1997)Tom Moore And Archie Have Timeless Appeal 15 (1997)
Life on the Border: 1950s & 1960s --14 (1996)From The Editors 14 (1996)A Baseball Team By Any Other Name 14 (1996)Drive-In Theaters Appealed to all Ages 14 (1996)El Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations 14 (1996)Barbie Doll Revolutionized Toy Industry 14 (1996)Rabies Took Bite of Sun City 14 (1996)Rabies: A Deadly Virus 14 (1996)Border Patrol Used Variety of Methods to Control Immigration 14 (1996)L. A. Nixon Fought Texas Voting Law 14 (1996)Douglass School Served Black Community Well 14 (1996)Thelma White Case Forced College Integration 14 (1996)Steve Crosno: An El Paso Original 14 (1996)Rock 'N' Roll Defined Teen Culture 14 (1996)A Shopping Mall by the People for the People 14 (1996)Chamizal Dispute Settled Peacefully 14 (1996)Turney Mansion Becomes Work of Art 14 (1996)First Hispanic Mayor Elected in 1957 -- 14 (1996)Flower Children Chose Alternative Lifestyle 14 (1996)
Three Decades of History 12 (1994)From the Editors 12 (1994)The Plaza Theater…Here to Stay!? 12 (1994)El Paso Broadcasting: The Stories Behind the Call Letters 12 (1994)Alphabet Agencies: FDR's Brainstorm 12 (1994)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio 12 (1994)Hobo Sign Language Targeted El Paso 12 (1994)Self- Sufficiency Key to Farmers' Survival During Depression 12 (1994)Hanna's Story A Holocaust Survivor Remembers 12 (1994)Former Members Recall Life in Hitler Youth 12 (1994)German Prisoners of War Interned at Fort Bliss During World War II -- 12 (1994)German POWs Remembered at Fort Bliss 12 (1994)One German POW's Story 12 (1994)Ration Books and Victory Gardens: Coping with Shortages 12 (1994)Women Changed Wartime Work Patterns 12 (1994)Bracero Program Hurt Domestic Farm Workers 12 (1994)San Pedro Pharmacy Retains Look of the Past 12 (1994)Teenage Fashions of the Nifty Fifties 12 (1994)Rebel Image of Motorcyclists Set in 1950s -- 12 (1994)
Border Customs and Crafts From the Editor 10 (1992)From the Editors 10 (1992)King on the Mountain 10 (1992)Piñatas! 10 (1992)How to Play the Piñata Game 10 (1992)Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts 10 (1992)Cotton Boll Entertains Too 10 (1992)Hands That Create Art and Soul 10 (1992)La Charreada - Mexican Horsemanship 10 (1992)Boots - A Family Tradition 10 (1992)Some Boys Still Grow Up to be Cowboys 10 (1992)Boot Capital of the World 10 (1992)The Magic of Mariachis 10 (1992)Ballet Folklorico - High School Style 10 (1992)New Generation of Mariachis 10 (1992)The Lady is a Bullfighter 10 (1992)The Midwife: Choices for Border Women 10 (1992)Retablos: Echoes of Faith 10 (1992)Tigua Indians: Dancing for St. Anthony 10 (1992)The Aztec and the Miracle 10 (1992)A Hispanic Girl's Coming of Age 10 (1992)Art - Low and Slow 10 (1992)Wedding Traditions on the Border 10 (1992)
Border Food Folkways From the Editor 9 (1991)From the Staff 9 (1991)Tortillas: Border Staff of Life 9 (1991)The Booming Tortilla Industry in Mexico 9 (1991)Where's The Beef? In El Paso! 9 (1991)How Do I Love Thee, Piggy? Let Me Count the Ways! 9 (1991)Tamales By Any Other Name Remain The Same 9 (1991)Rio Grande Thanksgiving 9 (1991)The Tigua Indians: Food for Thought 9 (1991)Corn: The Golden Gift from Our Ancestors 9 (1991)Border Pottery - Function and Beauty 9 (1991)Holy Hot Mole! 9 (1991)Looking Back at the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Men Behind the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Hot Peppers : They're Not Just for Eating 9 (1991)Food, Spices Double as Folk Cures 9 (1991)Weeds or Edible Desert Plants? 9 (1991)Cactus: It's Good for You! 9 (1991)Day of the Dead Celebrates Spiritual Tradition 9 (1991)Nutricious, Delicious Beans 9 (1991)Menudo Makes The Big Time 9 (1991)Mediterranean Cuisine: Old Tradition, Fresh Idea 9 (1991)Lenten Foods: From Fasting to Fabulous 9 (1991)Tarahumaras Rely on Nature for Food 9 (1991)Tempting Sweet Breads : Pan de Dulce 9 (1991)
Border Customs and Crafts II From the Editor -- 11 (1993)From the Editors 11 (1993)The Best Little Asaderos in Texas 11 (1993)Glass Work Disappearing on Border 11 (1993)Cockfights Legal in Surrounding Areas 11 (1993)Local Craftsmen Keep Art of Saddlery Alive 11 (1993)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers 11 (1993)Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes 11 (1993)Magoffin Home Preserves El Paso's Past 11 (1993)Bavarian Custom Celebrated in El Paso: Oktoberfest 11 (1993)Munich on the Border 11 (1993)Santo Niño de Atocha Called Miracle Worker 11 (1993)Lenten Customs Vary 11 (1993)To Ask is to Receive 11 (1993)Border Maintains Tradition of Posadas 11 (1993)A Visit from Three Kings 11 (1993)Matachines: Soldiers of the Virgin 11 (1993)Dichos Are an Intricate Part of Mexican Culture 11 (1993)Cultural Superstitions Affect Behavior 11 (1993)Que Onda Homeboy! Why Do We Talk Like This? 11 (1993)Traditional Hispanic Children's Games Disappear 11 (1993)
El Paso Women to ResearchEl Paso Women to Research (by name)El Paso Men to ResearchEl Paso Men to Research (by name)
From the Editors 30 (2012)From the Editor, Credits and Contents 30 (2012)Jessie Hawkins and Jenna Welch: Love, Loss and Laughter 30 (2012)Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million 30 (2012)David L. Carrasco Gave Back to Hometown 30 (2012)Cleofas Calleros Made Local History Important 30 (2012)Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy 30 (2012)Kate Moore Brown: A Woman of Many Firsts 30 (2012)Fun in the 1890s: The McGinty Club 30 (2012)
Borderlands Web Issue From the Editor 31(2013/14)Acknowledgements 31(2013/14)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 31(2013/14)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 31 (2013/14)Harvey Girls Changed the West 31(2013/14)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 31(2013/14)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 31(2013/14)
Borderlands 32 Tolerance. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 32(2014/15)Henry Kellen Created El Paso Holocaust Museum 32(2014/15)Bicycle Padre Still Working 32(2014/15)El Paso Connections: Ambrose Bierce: writer 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Tom Ogle, Inventor 32(2014/15)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 32(2014)Harvey Girls Changed the West 32(2014)
Borderlands 33 Service. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 33(2015)Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)Local Latino Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor Decades after Heroism 33 (2015)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 33 (2015)Will the Real Leon Blevins Please stand up? 33 (2015)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 33 (2015)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 33 (2015)
Borderlands 34 Inspiration. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 34(2016/17)Building Bridges Instead of Walls: Temple Mount Sinai 34 (2016/17)Ruben Salazar: A Bridge Between Two Societies 34 (2016/17)Luis Jimenez: Art Creates Dialogue 34 (2016/17)Richard "Tuff" Hedeman: The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riding 34 (2016/17)Rescue Mission of El Paso Provides Food and Opportunity 34 (2016/17)
35 From the EditorsArea Missions Are Part of Living History (with 2017 update)Downtown El Paso is Monument to Anson Mills (with 2017 update)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio (with 2017 update)The Magic of Mariachis (with 2017 update)New Generation of Mariachis (with 2017 update)Looking Back at the Chile PepperMen Behind the Chile Pepper (with 2017 update)Hot Peppers: They're Not Just for EatingEl Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations (with 2017 update)Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe Serves El Paso County (with 2017 update)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso into a Health Center (with 2017 update)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assault (with 2017 update)Company E Survivor Recalls Days as Prisoner of War (with 2017 update)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers (with 2017 update)
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Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy

Article first published in Vol. 30, 2012.

View pdf article 

Research by Mayra A. De La Cruz and Kim Wilson

RRobert McKeeobert E. McKee entered the world when horses were giving way to the railroad. He saw automobiles and airplanes take over transportation in the United States, although he preferred to travel by train. He became one of the leading builders in the nation and helped shaped skylines of major cities. He even had a large part in bringing in the atomic age and ending World War II. Though he could have lived anywhere, he chose El Paso and maintained the headquarters of his company here.

Born in Chicago on June 15, 1889, Robert Eugene McKee was the youngest of four children born to James and Alice Cleve McKee. His father was a structural engineer who helped design the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River, according to Leon Metz in his biography entitled Robert E. McKee: Master Builder. The family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, but the elder McKee was killed in a mule-drawn wagon accident when Eugene was only 10 years old. The economic condition of his family changed radically upon his father’s death, and Eugene, as he was known to family and friends, sold rags, bones and scrap metal that he salvaged in order to help support the family. Through persistence, he graduated from the Manual Training School of Washington University.

Image caption:  Robert E. McKee.  Photo courtesy of the Robert E. and Evelyn McKee Foundation Archives.

In 1907, he left St. Louis to live on his Uncle Bernard “Bud” Cleve’s ranch in Elk, New Mexico, 35 miles east of Cloudcroft. But ranching and farming were not for him. He came to El Paso in late 1908 and after briefly working with the Madera Box and Lumber Company, which made apple boxes for his uncle, he took a job with the El Paso City Engineering Department as a draftsman in 1909.

McKee married Gladys Evelyn Woods on September 20, 1911, and together they had eight children. Evie, as McKee called her, had led an exciting life even before meeting McKee, according to Metz. The daughter of a coffee plantation manager in Guatemala, Woods and her family had to escape revolution, earthquakes and volcanoes, eventually arriving in San Francisco, Calif. Shortly after their arrival, the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire struck the city, with the Woods family losing all their worldly goods. They made their way to Mexico, living in Chihuahua briefly before moving to El Paso. Her mother opened a boarding house at which Evelyn met McKee. The couple married when she was 18 and McKee was 22.

In 1912, McKee departed the city engineer’s office, working for the El Paso Milling Company until 1914, when he decided to beEvelyn McKeecome an independent contractor. Metz wrote, “Robert Eugene McKee decided he could acquire more independence, more money and less pain by working for himself.” McKee began his firm in a corrugated metal building near the Toltec Building in downtown El Paso. He shortened the name of his business to R. E. McKee: General Contractor since the building was too small for the lettering of his full name to fit on the front. His first contract was to remodel the Herald Building which had been damaged by fire in 1913. This building was later replaced by the Plaza Theater.

In 1920, McKee moved his headquarters to a new building he constructed on Texas Street. This remained his El Paso headquarters for the rest of his life. Metz wrote that more than $1 million dollars of building was done in the first seven years that R. E. McKee was in business. The company extended operations into New Mexico, Arizona and east Texas.

Image caption:  Gladys Evelyn. McKee. Photo courtesy of the Robert E. and Evelyn McKee Foundation Archives.

McKee and sonsMcKee started building a new home in 1921 at 2630 Richmond for his family just up the street from their first house in the Highland Park addition. The 9,000-square¬foot house, built for $75,000, was three stories high with a three-car garage, one of the largest residences in El Paso at the time. This house would remain the McKee home until his death. As they raised a houseful of children, the McKees pursued personal activities as well. Robert McKee enjoyed hiking in the mountains and playing tennis, building a court at his home. He planted a vegetable garden on the grounds, keeping it always neat and tidy. McKee also worked on his small farm in Mesquite.

Image caption: Robert E. McKee with young sons Phillip, left, and Louis, right.   Photo courtesy of the Robert E. and Evelyn McKee Foundation Archives.

Evelyn Woods McKee was fluent in Spanish, English, French and several Indian dialects and maintained Guatemalan, Danish and American citizenships. She was named El Paso’s Mother of the Year in 1942 and was active in church work at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church. She served on the board of directors of the YWCA and worked with the El Paso Woman’s Club.

In 1921, according to Metz, McKee received two of his largest paying contracts at the time: the Scottish Rite Temple downtown and the El Paso Country Club in the Upper Valley, two impressive buildings still in use today. McKee’s company built many different types of projects, from houses and apartments, schools, hospitals, hotels, office buildings, manufacturing plants, highways, bridges, and dams, to many of the buildings at the Grand Canyon, the Veterans Hospital and houses in Fort Bayard, N. M. and so much more. Some of the schools that he built here in El Paso were Cathedral High School, Crockett Elementary and Austin High School, whose football stadium is named in his honor. 

He also built many of the buildings at the University of Texas at El Paso and several other universities including New Mexico State University, the University of Texas, Southern Methodist University and the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio. McKee built the El Paso Natural Gas Company building which has been called the Blue Flame Building, because of the weather beacon on the roof. He also built numerous hospitals across the country including Providence and Thomason Hospital (now known as University Medical Center) in El Paso, the Naval Hospital in San Diego, the University of California Medical Center in Los Angeles and the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, to name just a few. The company also built numerous government buildings including post offices, Veterans Administration hospitals, and courthouses and prisons.

Metz wrote in his book that McKee was responsible for building most of Hickam Field in Honolulu, Hawaii, before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Many of the buildings were destroyed during the bombing. After this, the company took Army contracts for large military installations in Panama within the Canal Zone. Most of the contracts that the company had during World War II were for the government and military, and at one time McKee had 42,000 people working for him.

The El Paso Herald-PosFormer McKee homet reported on October 21, 1964, that one of McKee’s largest contracts, which totaled over $100 million, was the Los Alamos Atomic Energy Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico. The Herald-Post said that “he built most of the laboratories, testing sites, dormitories and houses at Los Alamos.” The Manhattan Project developed the atomic bomb which was tested at Trinity Site on July 16, 1945, and dropped the next month on Hiroshima, Japan, ending World War II. At the beginning of the project, he and his men did not know the purpose of the venture. The Herald-Post wrote that Dr. J. R. Oppenheimer, director of the project, had said that “without McKee’s help the U.S. might not have won the race against time and the war against the Axis.”

Image caption:  Former McKee home as it appears today.  Photo by Kim Wilson.

McKee’s company was awarded the Army-Navy “E” for Excellence by the United States government in 1945, an honor that “went only to the top five percent of firms throughout the nation whose war production had been judged superior.” McKee also constructed six buildings at White Sands Missile Range, receiving an honorary commission as colonel and aide-de-camp to the New Mexico governor in 1947. McKee constructed several buildings at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, including the iconic chapel.

On February 1, 1973, the El Paso Herald-Post reported that Robert E. McKee, Inc., which came to be known as REMCON, had “literally laid the foundations” for most of El Paso’s development. The Herald-Post listed some of the major buildings that were completed by McKee, including the S. H. Kress Building, (McKee built numerous Kress buildings in the Southwest), Bassett Tower, the City-County Building, the Federal Court House, the El Paso Hilton Hotel (now the Plaza Hotel), the Bataan Memorial Trainway, which depressed the railroad tracks downtown, El Paso National Bank and the Central YMCA.

Los Angeles international irportMcKee was the major contractor for the Los Angeles International Airport in 1959 and his company built the $100  million Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA in 1971. The Herald-Post reported that because of the company’s high requirements for quality both in materials and labor, McKee had a “reputation as one of the most capable and dependable construction firms in the nation” and said that company’s slogan was “Where we have built, we are asked to build again.”

Image caption: Los Angeles International Airport. Photo courtesy of the Robert E. and Evelyn McKee Foundation Archives.

McKee had projects in 35 states, from Maine to California, as well as Hawaii and Panama. In addition to the headquarters in El Paso, McKee had offices in Dallas, Los Angeles and Santa Fe. In 1973, the Herald-Post wrote that by 1950, McKee’s company had become the “largest individually owned contracting firm in the United States.”

If there was a secret to his success, McKee himself told reporter Marshall Hail that it was in being organized. He said, “Others have told me that we have the best organization in the United States. Organization and plain hard work. Add to that the fact that we never get discouraged.” Hail also wrote that McKee’s staff liked to work for him and that he sacrificed profit so that he could pay good salaries. “I believe in distribution of profits,” said McKee in a Herald-Post article.

Herman Leibreich in an article for Password , the journal of the El Paso County Historical Society, wrote that McKee “put his money to work not just to enlarge his holdings but to help others. He gave of his money. He gave of his time and he gave of himself.” Leibreich emphasized that McKee practiced the ethics of racial equality “long before our government put it into law.” His company’s “Bill of Rights” appreciated the working man as well as the chairman of the board of a company, and many of his employees worked only for him during their lifetime. Hail wrote in the El Paso Herald-Post that McKee was never selfish and paid his employees out of his own pocket if necessary. He also encouraged them to buy stock in the company when it went public.

U.S. Airforce chapelIn order to share the fruits of his hard work, McKee and his wife Evelyn started the Robert E. and Evelyn McKee Foundation as a non­profit charitable organization in 1952 with an initial donation of $40,000 in 1953, according to the foundation’s website. That very year, the foundation awarded $8,962.50 to various groups. Metz stated that in the charter with the state of Texas, the foundation was to be used “for the benefit of educational scholarships, religious needs (primarily Episcopalian), hospitals, medical research, community and civic institutions, youth activities, welfare, rehabilitation and mental health.” The McKee Foundation was instrumental in helping the El Paso Community Foundation get its start, donating $25,000 each year for five years to help establish the organization, according to Metz.

Image caption:  U.S. Airforce Academy.  Photo courtesy of the Robert E. and Evelyn McKee Foundation Archives.

The McKees had an impressive collection of Southwestern and Indian Art, knowing many of the artists personally. The McKees helped with the establishment of the El Paso Museum of Art and the procurement of the Samuel H. Kress Collection of paintings through their relationship with the president and art director of the famous collection. The El Paso museum received 57 paintings and two sculptures, dating from the 13th century. It was one of 40 museums and universities in the nation to receive a part of the Kress collection. Metz wrote that in addition to paintings, the McKees collected pottery by Maria Martinez, famous for the “black on black” technique, treasures that McKee displayed in his offices as well as in his home.

McKee stepped down as president of the company on February 1, 1961, little more than a year after his wife Gladys Evelyn McKee died on January 26, 1960. McKee remained chairman of the board. His son, Robert E. Jr., took over as vice- chairman and treasurer, and youngest son Louis, already supervising engineer of the firm, became vice president.

At the age of 75, Robert Eugene McKee, Sr. died on October 21, 1964. His survivors included his second wife, Mary Grace, six sons, two daughters, 27 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. The family home was donated to the Rehabilitation and Cerebral Palsy Center of El Paso in 1966 and later acquired by various private owners, according to Alex Hinojosa in an article for the El Paso Times.

Scottish Rite templeDuring his lifetime, McKee was named Outstanding Citizen by the El Paso Realtors, given the Conquistador award in 1960 by the city of El Paso and inducted into the El Paso County Historical Society’s Hall of Honor in 1967. Pepperdine College named him to their Hall of American Builders.  A 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason, McKee also served as a vestryman at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, where the McKee Chapel was built in his honor. He was active on the boards of the El Paso Museum and the Southwestern Children’s Home, two of his major community interests.

Image caption: Scottish Rite Temple. Photo by Kim Wilson.

After McKee’s death, the company continued building, producing the Civic Center and William Beaumont Hospital, the Fox Fine Arts building and the engineering complex on the UTEP campus and many others in El Paso, as well as the Atlantic Richfield Plaza and other buildings in Los Angeles and multiple projects in Dallas and other cities. The company merged with Santa Fe Industries in 1972 and R. E. McKee Inc. moved its headquarters to Dallas. By 1982, only one McKee actively worked with the company, and Santa Fe Industries sold R. E. McKee Contracting Company. According to Metz, the McKee Contracting firm closed on June 30, 1995, and dissolved on December 6, 1996.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2012, the McKee Foundation is administered by R. E. McKee’s family, with Louis McKee serving as President and Treasurer of the nonprofit organization. The foundation donates thousands of dollars for scholarships at the University of Texas in Austin and El Paso, New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico. For their work, the McKee family and the Foundation were inducted into the Texas Philanthropy Hall of Fame in 2001.

Robert E. McKee’s company constructed more than 3,000 projects in the United States and Panama. McKee helped to change the face of many cities throughout the nation. As Leon Metz said, “The McKee name will live on, remembered not only in those thousands of buildings, but in the art collection and other interests through which R. E. McKee sought to make the world a better place for those with whom he shared it.”


Tags: Biography


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