Profile of a Quiet Virginian: Lt. General Clarence E. McKnight, Jr.

By: James G. Bequai*

 He who, secure within, can say: Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have liv’d today

 –Horace, Odes, III, 29

Chaucer, in his famous “Canterbury Tales,” takes the reader on a tour of Medieval English society; with all its trappings and failings. He does so, without boring us with minutiae and the battles of its kings and princess. Dante, in his “Inferno,” brings Renaissance Italy to life; with its dynamics and the underlying societal forces that came to shape it. There is much that we can still learn from these Great Masters, for our troubled times.

Great figures, we are told, are quiet in their approach to life; yet their impact is often profound. Gen. McKnight (U.S. Army-Ret) fits that description well. He has served his country as a decorated soldier, an engineer and one of the founders that led to the Internet Revolution, an educator, author and business executive.  “Mac,” as he likes to be called, is a Renaissance man. (Google Mac for a listing of his many accomplishments).

In spite of all of his professional accomplishments, the one dearest to his heart has always been helping the disabled and needy. Never forgetting, that before making his way through the halls of West Point, he came from a poor family in Tennessee. While he has given much of his time and resources to those in need; yet the scholar in him raises concerns about what he sees around him. A divided society. Where class is pitted against class, race against race, gender against gender, and so on.

 “Great civilizations,” Mac warns, “do not fall from without, but from within.” In the military, he’s fond of saying, you look on your fellow trooper as a friend and family member. When one bleeds, the color of blood is all the same. Yet the divisiveness in our society, unless we overcome it, he fears will not fare well for our future. Mac is a firm believer in inclusion.

Richard L. Lesher, a former President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and also a pioneer in the IT revolution, best described Mac: “I know of few individuals in……who have demonstrated more creative genius or inspired leadership than Lt. Gen. Clarence McKnight, Jr.  He is a national treasure.”  I have known Mac all of my life. He’s been a tutor, guiding light, and the reason why I opted to pursue the study of IT security. Through Mac, I learned that diversity is not division, but the compilation of the many skills of our society to best serve its needs and future.


  • The author is a graduate of the Auburn University College of Business, and a volunteer for groups that serve the needy and disabled.