Monday, July 14, 2008
As a young girl, I remember sitting in the basement of one of the dorms at Heritage Halls at BYU during a campus Education Week, and listening to my father, my uncle Elmo, and Monroe McKay discuss, or rather debate, politics. Uncle Elmo was pretty much a Republican, my dad generally voted his heart, but leaned Democratic, and Monroe McKay was the most liberal voice I'd heard at that young point in my life.
Monroe McKay was my aunt's brother-in-law's brother.
At the time, he was an attorney in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona, an ex-Marine who'd served as a Director of the Peace Corps in Africa and clerked for the Arizona Supreme Court. It made quite the impression on my young forming consciousness to hear them discuss topics I'd previously never considered, and particularly for my Goldwater Republican uncle to be trading points with someone that far to the left.
Ten years later, Monroe McKay was my last branch president at BYU, from 1976-77 at a time when he was also a professor at the BYU Law School, and in his typical inimitable fashion, made that position quite his own by skirting orthodoxy somewhat (it was before women were allowed to pray in LDS Sacrament Meetings, something he found to be in need of remedy). He was very interested in civil rights issues as they related to the LDS Church, at a time when blacks had not yet been given the priesthood (this happened a year later, in June 1978), and having served an LDS mission to South Africa in the early 1950's, was instrumental in influencing his cousin, former LDS Church President David O. McKay. To have the same person from whose mouth I heard my first liberal musings become an ecclesiastical leader is an interesting phenomenon. I will always remember Monroe McKay fondly for both. He was compassionate, caring, and, yes, a character, larger than life.
Monroe McKay was appointed by President Jimmy Carter shortly thereafter in 1977 to serve on the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, a position he continues to hold today as senior judge. He held the position of Chief Judge of the Tenth Circuit from 1991-1993.
I found this recent post from another blogger also singing the praises of Monroe McKay:
Lynne's somewhat invented life: WORDS OF COMFORT