Thomas N. McKee
Thomas Nelson McKee was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 21, 1948, the son of Dorothy McComb and John Ryan McKee V, an entrepreneur and inventor. His father died in 1959, and a few years later Tom and his mother moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, where he began collecting minerals as a teenager.
Tom graduated from Arizona State University in Tempe and went on to teach 8th-grade science at the Paiute Elementary School in Scottsdale (though he didn't need the money). He eventually opened six turquoise jewelry shops in Scottsdale, Arizona and one in Vail, Colorado; his beautiful Scottsdale home and yellow Jaguar XK-E were the envy of his collecting friends, and his deep pockets allowed him to indulge his passion for fine mineral specimens. He built the finest private mineral collection in Arizona, exhibited in showcases in his basement. During Tom's collecting days in the late 1960's and 1970's he would frequently purchase many flats of Mexican specimens, Tsumeb dioptase and other minerals coming out in quantity at the time, then select a few of the best for his own personal collection and sell the rest to other collectors and dealers. He also field-collected specimens at a number of the famous Arizona mines, including the 79 mine and the Apache mine. Tom won both the McDole and the Lidstrom Awards at the 1987 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. Unfortunately, a serious business reversal threatened him later that year, and on July 25, 1987 he took his own life.
The mineral specimen portion of Tom's estate was dispersed through various channels. Tom's mother gave the Arizona Mineral and Mining Foundation over $10,000, which enabled them to purchase a group of his specimens, predominantly those from Colorado and Mexico; they are part of the Flagg Gallery cases in the Museum today. The Arizona specimens were purchased by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. Martin Zinn purchased and resold the Mexican Specimens. Wayne Leicht of Kristalle purchased and dispersed the remainder of the U.S. and worldwide specimens. McKee specimens can be recognized by a catalog number hand-written in black ink on a white patch on the back, with the suffix "-TM."
Six specimens collected in the field by the late Dick Jones and sold to Tom are illustrated in the biography of Dick Jones published in the Mineralogical Record in 1983. The story of the world's finest specimen of aurichalcite, collected by Wendell Wilson at the 79 mine in 1971 and sold to Tom, was published in the Mineralogical Record in 1987, along with a photo of the specimen (which is now in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson).
McKEE, DOROTHY (niece)(2009) Personal communication.
BIDEAUX, R.A. (1983) Richard L. Jones, 1933-1982. Mineralogical Record, 14, 330-331.
WILSON, W.E. (1987) What's new in minerals? The 79 mine aurichalcite story. Mineralogical Record, 18, 299-301.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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||Tom McKee at the McDole Award ceremony in 1987, preparing to drink the ceremonial shot of rum.|
||42 x 45 mm|