Bill McKinney joined at the age of nineteen years in the United States Navy and served during the Korean War two years on a minesweeper. After his military service, he studied from 1957 drama at the Pasadena Playhouse. Subsequently, he attended Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio. In 1967 he made his feature film debut in the horror film She Freak, after which he received several guest roles on television shows such as I Dream of Jeannie and The Sheriff in New York. In 1972 he was on the side of Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight and Ned Beatty in Deliverance, each of the first to see a nameless hillbilly who is abused and killed by Bobby Lewis. As a result, he played among others in Sam Peckinpah's Junior Bonner and John Huston That was Roy Bean. In 1974 he was in the past the dogs bite first seen on the side of Clint Eastwood, followed by up to 1989 six more films together, including The Texan, The man who never gives up and Bronco Billy. Other roles he played in The Last Sniper on the side of John Wayne, Rambo alongside Sylvester Stallone and Against All Odds with Jeff Bridges. A small supporting role he played in the 1999 Stephen King adaptation The Green Mile. In addition to his feature film appearances McKinney was seen as a guest star in several successful series of formats, including Columbo, Starsky & Hutch, Battlestar Galactica, A Fall Guy, The A-Team and The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones.
Bill McKinney died at the age of 80 years in a hospice in Los Angeles.