The Colored Millionaire

April 19, 1902


The Planet recognizes a black millionaire on his death. Emphasizing his generosity to his white friends, the paper highlights the “love of the colored brother for the white man.”


Peculiar Antipathy To His Own People.
Relatives Cut Off- The Catholic Church Recognized.
Mourning Friends Permeated With Disgust- The Will to be Contested in the Courts.

The colored people were unaware of the fact that one of their own race was worth over one million dollars. They are now aware of the fact that after an existence of 80 years, he practically gives back to the white race all that he had acquired during his residence in their midst. This emphasizes the fact that the bond of union is strong even in death and that the love of the colored brother for the white man is strong enough to lead to the former’s undoing.

Virginia By Birth.

Colonel John McKee, a resident of Philadelphia, Pa., but a Virginian by birth having first seen the light of day in 1821 at Alexandria, Va., died on Sunday night, April 6th, 1902.
He owned 400 pieces of real estate in Philadelphia, 4500 acres of farmland in New Jersey, 200,000 acres of coal, mineral, oil and farm land in Kentucky, West Virginia and Illinois.
He seemed to have hated his own relatives worse than any one else, and liked strangers better than he did his kith and kin.

His Relatives.

He is survived by one daughter, Abbie A. Syphax; who has five children living, and by Harry McKee Minton, who is the son of a second daughter, Martha Virginia Minton. Mrs. Minton has been dead for several years.
The surviving daughter is cut off with an annuity of $300. It is provided that after her death her children shall receive annuities of $50 each. Harry McKee Minton is bequethed an annuity of $50.
Upon the death of the daughter and the six grandchildren the comparatively small fund reserved to provide an income for the annuitants shall revert to the residuary estate in the hands of Archbishop Ryan.

A Church and College.

Colonel McKee has specified that this estate shall be used for two purposes, First, to build a Catholic church, rectory and convent in McKee City, N.J., and, second, to build and maintain a charitable institution in Philadelphia for the education of both white and colored male orphans.
Legacies of $100 each were left to Raymond J. Barr, Colonel McKee’s confidential secretary and adviser; to Annie Saterfield, his clerk; Raymond Barr, an employee; A. E. Smith, his barber, and to Susan Washington, his cook.

Must Serve Twenty Years.

He provided that if John Donahue shall continue in the employ of his executors for twenty years and serve them faithfully for a compensation of $2.25 per day, then he shall receive an annuity of $100 during the rest of his life.
He wills that the old homestead on Lombard street, shall be converted into a store immediately after his death. His daughter is to move out of the house directly after the funeral, and she may have the use, free of charge, of a small cottage at 1355 Patton St., a narrow lane in the extreme southern section of the city. The testator directs that none of his Philadelphia real estate shall be sold, but, on the contrary, that it shall be improved and rented.

Substantial Buildings.

It is directed that the buildings of the college shall be large and substantial, and of brick or stone. They shall be surrounded by a solid stone wall eight feet high, three feet thick at the top. The walls should be provided with drains to carry water away.
Poor white or colored male orphans, between the ages of 12 and 18 years, may be admitted to the institution, and lodged, fed and educated free of charge at the discretion of a board of directors.
This board shall consist of ten men, who shall be chosen annually by a vote of the Catholic clergyman in Philadelphia.

Educated for the Navy.

The pupils shall, so far as possible, be given a naval education and taught the subjects that are taught at Annapolis.
The executors are directed to negotiate with the Secretary of the Navy for the use of a battleship of cruiser on which the advanced pupils may be given on their final instruction.
In front of the main college building a marble slab shall be placed. On this slab shall be inscribed the following:
“Colonel John McKee College.”
An equestrian statue of the testator shall be erected in front of the grand central gate. It is directed that a photograph of Colonel McKee on horseback shall be used as a model for the statue.
The relations between Colonel McKee and his daughter and his grandchildren were always present. The latter had no intimitation that they were to be cut off with such a small share of Colonel McKee’s estate.

Bitter Comment.

If the dead millionaire could hear all that is being said by his relatives, employees and the colored folks generally, he no doubt would want to change that will.
The family has decided to take legal steps to have it set aside and much of the vast estate will no doubt go in a direction never dreamed of by the deceased.
Its peculiar, but nearly all of our wealthy colored men are permeated with similar notions and the result is disheartening to the average observer of the race’s progress.

A Liberal Church.

It is safe to say however, that the Roman Catholic officials will carry out the will’s provisions with rigid impartiality, and few, if any other denomination or church could be trusted to do it, where a colored person was concerned.
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Contributed By

Brooke Royer


“The Colored Millionaire,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed August 24, 2019,