Likable. Simply, likable. Many people know McKinley L. Price, DDS, as a family man, a dentist, an active community volunteer, a native son of Newport News and as the city’s mayor. Like the jigsaw puzzles he enjoys putting together, there are many pieces and multiple facets to this man that when placed within the frame of his life, create a picture of character, integrity, discipline, strength, warmth and humor.
He calls himself “an icon for average.” History and headlines show that he’s far from that. He grew up in downtown Newport News and attended public school during the time of segregation. His father was a shipyard employee who passed away in 2005. His mother is 99 years old and still lives in Newport News. He is married to Valerie Scott Price and they have two children and one grandson.
“Things have changed quite a bit,” says Price as he reflects on his younger days. “I was not a brilliant student; I liked math and science, but didn’t enjoy history or English because it required a lot of reading and I was a slow reader.”
He continues, “One of my strongest assets was discipline more so than academics. There are many brilliant people who punch out of college because they don’t have the discipline to do what it takes to be successful.”
Price received his Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from Hampton Institute (now University) in 1971. He earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree from Howard University in 1976 after begin honorably discharged from the U.S. Army.
Price interacts with students often and hopes that through him, these students will understand where he came from, what he went through and what he was able to accomplish in spite of his circumstances. “I want them to say, ‘If he can do it, I know I can,’ and if they have the desire and discipline, they can.”
As mayor, he was first elected in 2010 and has announced that this will be his last term. His term expires in 2022. “I think 12 years is long enough to try to accomplish what you want to do, and by announcing my plans, it gives people time to look for a replacement. It also gives me a goal to look toward, which is my grandson, who will be 7, and I plan to spend a lot more time with him by then.” Economics will help determine when he retires from dentistry.
When not working, Price enjoys playing and watching sports. He plays tennis and golf. “Being as small as I was, tennis was a sport that matched my size,” Price says with a smile. “My mother-in-law, who was a national women’s American Tennis Association champion, actually gave me my first tennis racket when I was eight years old.” In high school, he played tennis and baseball but when both teams held practice at the same time, he chose tennis. He attended Hampton Institute on a tennis scholarship.
Price’s son got him interested in watching soccer and his favorite soccer team is Liverpool. His favorite football team is the Minnesota Vikings. With a laugh, Price says, “Vikings was my high school mascot so it was a natural transition for me.”
Some of his other favorite pastimes include movies such as The Sound of Music, and action-packed martial arts movies. “I think I get all of my anxiety out by watching them,” he says with a smile. He also enjoys yoga. One of his favorite meals is blackberry pancakes, scrambled eggs and turkey sausage. He hasn’t eaten red meat in more than 35 years because he’s proactive to prevent health conditions prevalent in his family background.
Family means a lot to him and he continues to value his time spent with them. One of the reasons he chose dentistry was the time it afforded him with his family. He had always wanted to be in the medical field. However, a physician, the father of his best friend, talked him out of it because of the unpredictable hours with house calls and emergencies. Dentistry provided more of an 8am–5pm opportunity and the more he thought about it, the more he wanted to pursue this path.
As he looks over the path he’s taken, he is humble and grateful. “It has been interesting, especially when you pass by certain locations like the shipyard and say, ‘Wow, that’s in my city—the largest employer in the Commonwealth,’ and we can claim that we’re the only city in the country that makes nuclear aircraft carriers and helps to make nuclear submarines.”
That’s historical and significant. With 2020 on the horizon, Price continues to work for the benefit of Newport News, his home. Like a painter determining what brushes to use and which movements to take, he mixes integrity, discipline and determination to leave a landscape for current and future generations to take pride in and enjoy.
TO THE POINT:
Mayor McKinley L. Price, DDS
Address: City Council, City of Newport News, 2400 Washington Ave., Newport News, VA 23607