William Victor McConkey (1905-1993) served a decade at Berea College in the Woodcraft Department and afterwards held a long and successful career at the U.S. Public Health Services Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. McConkey oversaw the Woodcraft Department in the rehabilitation branch of the clinic that was an early effort by the United States Government to research and find treatment for opioid addiction. He and his wife, Anna (Roberts) McConkey, were married in 1931, the year that Anna earned her B.A. from Berea College. The couple had two daughters and lived for most of the time in Lexington, Kentucky. In addition to being a part of the woodcraft movement, McConkey held positions with community organizations such as Boy Scouts, and the Presbyterian Church.
William Victor McConkey was one of eight children of William A. and Mollie McConkey. He was born April 18, 1905 in Salt Lick, Braxton County, West Virginia. His Berea transcript indicates that he attended some high school in Burnsville, West Virginia, in 1922.
McConkey arrived in Berea around 1926 and attended the Berea Academy. McConkey graduated from the Academy in 1929. In 1930, he became an employee in Berea's Woodcraft Department. By June 1931, he was Foreman of the Cabinet Shop in the Berea Woodcraft Department. While working at Berea, McConkey may have also studied or considered studying at Peabody College in Nashville, as his records show a transcript being sent there in 1935. While living and working in Berea, McConkey was also active in Union Church.
Early in June of 1931, McConkey married Anna Katherine Roberts, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Roberts of Jackson Street, Berea. Their wedding took place in Covington, Kentucky, at a friend's residence. Anna earned an A.B. in French from Berea College in 1931. Berea's Alumnus magazine notes the birth of a daughter, Lois Katherine, on November 13th of 1936. The March 1954 edition of the Alumnus mentions the McConkey's as having two daughters.
In September 1940, McConkey was hired as Industrial Superintendent of Woodcraft at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. The hospital had recently opened as a state-of-the-art Federal incarceration/rehabilitation/research facility for treatment of addiction. It's woodcraft program, which McConkey managed for many years, was designed to help recovering addicts to learn a trade and to regain some measure of productivity. During this time, McConkey built furniture for Lyndon B. Johnson's White House and several large conference tables for the Executive Office Building in Washington. Subsequently, McConkey served as Chairman of the Building and Expansion Program.
McConkey was active Scouting for most of his life. In 1936, he became Scout Master of Troop 51 in Berea. Later he served on the district committee. He also served as Trustee for the Second Presbyterian Church in Lexington. During World War II, the couple relocated to Louisville where McConkey was employed at the Mengel Corporation (1942). At an unspecified date, the couple returned to Lexington where McConkey continued his work at the Public Health Service Hospital.
Near his retirement from Public Health Services in 1973, McConkey was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel in recognition of 42 years of community service. Particularly noted were his efforts in rehabilitative work at the Clinical Research Center, a branch of the Public Health Services in Lexington, from which McConkey retired. At his retirement, he is noted as being a member of the Exchange Club. Victor McConkey died in Lexington in February of 1993.
Berea Alumnus Magazine. Vol. 7, no. 3, 1936, pp. 84. Vol. 11, no. 1, 1940, pp. 26. Vol. 13, no. 3, 1942, pp. 91. Vol. 24, no. 6, 1954, pp. 86. Vol. 28, no. 1, 1957, pp. 7. Vol. 44, no. 2, 1973, pp. 30,31.
Berea College Enrollment and Grade Records. Archives and Special Collections.
Brook, Pete. "The Astonishing Treatments and Research at a Mid-Century Prison Hospital." Medium. 9 February 2017. Accessed 9 August 2017. <https://medium.com/@brookpete/the-astonishing-treatments-and-research-at-a-mid-century-prison-hospital-2e89172a99f0>.
"McConkey-Roberts." [Berea Citizen], 4 June 1931, issue 32, pp. 5, column 1, 1931.
"Scouts Elect New Leader." [Berea Citizen], 27 August 1936, issue 38, pp. 1, col. 5.
U. S. Government. Census Bureau. 14th U.S. Census, 1920. Supervision district no. 3, enumeration district no. 13, sheet no. 3A, Enumerator 6265. Salt Lick District, Braxton County, West Virginia. Retrieved from https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRFM- K7T?i=4&cc=1488411. Accessed 9 August, 2017.
Weiss, Erin M. "A New Deal for Junkies. Changing Perceptions of Addiction and Treatment, 1935-1974." Philologia. Ed. Phillip Murillas. Vol. 3. Accessed 9 August 2017. <https://philologiavt.org/index.php/philologia/article/view/70/37>.