Hal McKinney, the Former Fresno County Sheriff has died

FRESNO, Calif.

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His friends and former co-workers say he was very opinionated and even after his retirement ... he always went out of his way to help his former co-workers.

With his daughter by his side ... former Fresno County Sheriff Hal McKinney died early Thursday ... after a long battle with cancer.

Those who knew the 86-year-old say his reign as sheriff in the 70's and 80's was fueled by his passion ... a quality that endured until his final days.

Steve Magarian served as Fresno County Sheriff after McKinney retired the post in 1986. Before that, the two had worked side-by-side for years ... and during that time, became good friends. Magarian says he learned a great deal from McKinney and so did his former co-workers. "He saw that education was the key to future leadership in law enforcement, and so he instilled that in the Fresno county sheriff department."

In fact, McKinney led the sheriff's department into the computer age ... and after his retirement, went on to teach criminology courses at Fresno City College, and Fresno State. Current sheriff, Margaret Mims ... who McKinney hired ... says he was always one of the first people she turned to for advice. "The support that he gave me during my career since 1983 has been very important to me."

Fresno County Coroner, Dr. David Hadden credits McKinney for his career as well McKinney was the last sheriff to serve as coroner until he asked the board of supervisors to separate the two positions in 1978. "Well, the first time I ran was in 1979, so it's been a while and without Hal making that suggestion that wouldn't have happened."

And so, Hal McKinney's legacy lives on ... through the lives he touched every day.

"He was a giant of a man in my eyes. I'm going to miss him terribly. We lost a great leader."

After retiring from the sheriff's department Hal McKinney was a regular contributor here at ABC30 ... he gave his opinion on many different topics during the 1990's.

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