Born in Malden, West Virginia, in 1886 , McKinney, also known under the pseudonym David Coolidge, was the son of coal miner. At different points in his life McKinney endeavored a variety of jobs which included becoming editor of, This Month; a columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier (1932); Executive Secretary of the Unemployed Citizens' League of Allegheny County (1933); a Social Worker; and Assistant to the Director, Kingsley House. In 1916 an oral history conducted at Columbia University resulted in McKinney writing a 116 page book of memoirs published by Harvard University, The Reminiscences of Ernest Rice McKinney. The memoir deals with the development of the National Unemployed League, depression days; organizing steel workers for CIO, membership in the Workers' Socialist Party; upgrading African Americans in industry; Working Men's Welfare Committees; Workers Party of the United States (Trotskyist Group) and its relationship to Communist and Socialist Parties; and McKinney's resignation from Workers Party.
From the description of Papers of Ernest Rice McKinney, 1929-1942 (bulk 1929-1935, 1942). (University of Pittsburgh). WorldCat record id: 30385139
From the description of Reminiscences of Ernest Rice McKinney : oral history, 1961. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 309734704