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Tommy Lee McConkey, 38 — a successful construction contractor from Altoona, Iowa — was shot in the head in a Des Moines parking lot at 2929 E. University Avenue on Wednesday, August 27, 1975. He died Thursday night at Des Moines’ Mercy Hospital.
It was a tragic end for a man who, less than two years earlier, had participated in a candidate forum in Altoona with other city council hopefuls and expressed his desire to make his community a safer place to live and raise a family.
According to a brief published in the Ames Tribune on August 29, 1975, McConkey was working at a lounge Wednesday when an unidentified person drove up in a car and shot him in the face.
George Douglas Frank, 25 — a former Des Moines resident living in St. Louis, Mo. — was arrested in November 1975 and charged with McConkey’s murder but later was released. An AP story published in the Muscatine Journal Dec. 6, 1975, quoted Police Lt. Edgar Harlan as saying Frank was released after a witness to the slaying could not identify him in a line-up.
Tommy Lee McConkey was born October 3, 1936 to Hervey Edward and Phylena May (Ferguson) McConkey and graduated from Runnells High School. By age 31, he already operated two successful businesses — McConkey Realty and McConkey Construction Co.
He was one of nine candidates seeking office for the November 7, 1967 Altoona election. Carl V. Nielsen, 35, ran unopposed for mayor in a seat then held by Sam Wise. Five candidates sought two, four-year council seats, and three vied for single, two-year seats.
McConkey, then 31, sought one of the two-year council terms.
Six years later, McConkey ran again for a seat on Altoona’s city council.
On Tuesday night, October 30, 1973, Altoona’s local Jaycees sponsored a “Candidates Night” at the Centennial school, with all eight candidates present. An Altoona Herald article published two days later on November 1 reported a good attendance as candidates expressed views “regarding Altoona and its future and what part they would attempt to play if elected.”
The following is McConkey’s profile from the Altoona Herald article:
Tommy Lee McConkey, 706 7th Ave. S.E., is a graduate of Runnells High School. He and his wife, Sharon, have two daughters, Darla and Darcy. He is a contractor and operates the Little Profit Store here.
McConkey believes the construction of multi-family dwellings can continue, but says a city can move too fast and create severe problems for city services and recreational facilities. He favors commercial and industrial growth, but thinks residential development should be watched closely.
He favors a metropolitan solid waste agency but does not go along with county-wide government.
Mr. McConkey believes he can better serve the citizens of Altoona if elected to the council, and feels a major issue of the future is to keep the city a safe place in which to live and insure [sic] our children of a good school system.
Less than two years later, McConkey himself would become a crime victim, albeit outside the city he worked to represent.
Tommy Lee McConkey was a member of the Altoona Baptist Church and had lived in Altoona for the past 11 years. He was buried at the Lowman Cemetery in Runnells, Iowa.
If you have any information about Tommy McConkey’s unsolved murder please contact the Des Moines Police Department at 515-283-4864.