The portrait of Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Gen. Seth McKee was dedicated yesterday as the newest image on the Missouri Wall of Fame floodwall mural in downtown Cape Girardeau.
The Wall of Fame honors famous Missourians or people who achieved fame while residing in the state. McKee’s portrait was painted by local artist Craig Thomas and is between the portraits of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Gen. Omar Bradley.
McKee was born in McGehee, Arkansas. He graduated from Cape Central High School in 1934. He attended then Southeast Missouri State Teachers College for three years and then the University of Oklahoma.
In December 2016, the Southeast Board of Regents approved a resolution honoring him. At the time the Regents awarded this honor, he was the oldest-living American four-star general and highest-ranking D-Day survivor.
He began his military career in 1935 as a member of the Missouri National Guard and his Air Force career as an aviation cadet in February 1938. He graduated from flight training in February 1939.
During World War II, he was deputy commander of the 370th Fighter Group in England and flew the P-38 Lightning. He logged more than 190 hours in 69 combat missions.
During his tenure as general, McKee was commander in chief of the North American Air Defense (NORAD) Command, a military command consisting of United States and Canadian air defense forces with headquarters at the former Ent Air Force Base in Colorado. NORAD was responsible for air defense of the North American continent. He also served as commander in chief of the Continental Air Defense Command, the U.S. organization of NORAD, and as commander of the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Defense Command. McKee had operational command of all U.S. and Canadian strategic aerospace defense forces and was responsible for global aerospace surveillance and warning assessment of hostile attack from space.
He retired in 1973 and over his 35 years of service earned numerous military decorations and awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. In November 2016 he was awarded the rank of Chevalier (Knight) in the National Order of the Legion of Honor by the government of France.
McKee died Dec. 26, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the age of 100.
McKee will be the 48th addition to the floodwall’s west side and was supported by efforts of his family and friends and the American Legion Post 63. The project was approved by the Old Town Cape revitalization organization, and financed from a Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau fund.