McKee was born in the port town of Larne on 4 September 1943 as the third of three children to a working-class family with Ellen and Robert as parents. He attended the local schools Inver Primary and Greenland Secondary leaving as soon as he could. He showed little interest in studies. Upon leaving school he found employment in various engineering jobs in Larne.
McKee's interest in politics was sparked by the television appearance of Ian Paisley in a debate at the Oxford Union in 1960's. Upon later attending one of Paisley's rallies in Larne he met his future wife Joan, and subsequently became Paisley's election agent and helping the DUP campaign in the area. He then joined Paisley's group the Ulster Protestant Volunteers.
He first gained election in 1973 to Larne Borough Council upon its creation. He was one of the longest-serving councillors on Larne Borough Council; like the Ulster Unionist Party's Roy Beggs, he served continuously since the council was formed in 1973, until his death. Resigning from the DUP in 2007 at protest at the DUP's decision to enter government with Sinn Féin, he joined the TUV. This act from the DUP made him "sick to his stomach". Every council election he ran in the Larne Lough electoral district. He was also elected to the Northern Ireland Forum in 1996 and the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1982.
At an anti-Good Friday Agreement protest in Antrim on April 1998 McKee shared a platform with then fellow DUP member Sammy Wilson and Kenneth Peeples, a leader of the Orange Volunteers and Protestant fundamentalist, who burned a copy of the agreement. In 2000 he was accused by fellow Larne councillor and Social Democratic and Labour Party member Danny O'Connor of raising tensions in the Catholic Seacourt estate by claiming Irish republicans were targeting the minority Ulster Protestant population in the estate. In 2004 republican political party Sinn Féin claimed McKee had justified a death threat made to Danny O'Connor's mother by Ulster loyalists erecting a flag outside her house. McKee has also spoken of his opinion that Larne Borough Council should not provide funding grants to Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) teams as he stated the GAA is a sectarian organisation.
He served as Mayor of Larne in 1984/85, and as leader of the DUP group on Larne Borough Council for many years from 1981. His brother Bobby McKee, a former UVF member, was a DUP councillor in Larne until 2015.
McKee cited heavy-handed policing by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) at loyalist protests as the reason for his resignation from the local District Policing Partnership. He was critical of the PSNI's handling of the 2012-2013 Northern Ireland protests near the sectarian interface at Short Strand, where he claimed republicans attacked loyalist protesters without police intervention.
Jack McKee was a founder member of Larne Free Presbyterian church, a church which he attended faithfully right up to his death. In February 2015 he objected to a memorial for eight women from Islandmagee, convicted of witchcraft, because he wasn't convinced that they were not guilty of devil worship and he believed the plaque could become a "shrine to paganism". He also stated that he could not support the proposal because he believed it to be anti-God.
He died at the age of 72 on 4 October 2015.He was suffering from infective exacerbated pulmonary fibrosis, the same illness which killed his father. His funeral was held at Larne Free Presbyterian Church and buried in Larne town cemetery.TUV leader Jim Allister described him as "Fearless in his defence of unionism and unafraid to often stand alone, it was a great privilege to have him as a TUV councillor." Former DUP colleague Sammy Wilson called him a 'dedicated public servant' and despite their political differences they maintained a cordial relationship. Sinn Féin councillor James McKeown, while acknowledging McKee's death would be a loss to his community and Larne in general, he was an "uncompromising loyalist through and through" and he wasn't in full support of the steps Larne was taking to change its image.
He was married with two children and six grandchildren.
- Sydney Elliott and W. D. Flackes, Northern Ireland: A Political Directory, 1968-1999, p.333
- "OBITUARY: An early aide to Paisley, Jack McKee remained councillor for 42 years." The Newsletter 24 October 2015
- "Niggling doubts over safe seats – Will DUP see dent in support through prospect of sharing power with SF?" Belfast Telegraph, Tuesday, 13 February 2007
- "TUV decision 'no slight'", Larne Times, 20 March 2008
- "Hardline former unionist councillor Jack McKee dies" The Irish News
- "'Demon Pastors' are humbled", The Guardian
- Sectarian attacks Iol.ie
- UDA threaten SDLP councillor's mother An Phoblacht
- This week back in 1995 Larne Times
- "McKee quits partnership body over ‘heavy-handed’ policing of protests" Larne Times 19 September 2013
- "Christian Councillor objects to Islandmagee 'witches' plaque" The Guardian
- 'Former Alderman Jack McKee dies' Larne Times
- 'Jack McKee: Ex-TUV and DUP councillor dies aged 71' BBC News
|Northern Ireland Assembly (1982)|
|MPA for North Antrim
1982 - 1986
|Northern Ireland Forum|
|Member for East Antrim
1996 - 1998
|Mayor of Larne
1978 - 1983