Floyd McKissick was born in Ashville, North Carolina, on 9th March, 1922. After being educated at Atlanta's Morehouse College, he became the first African American to study at North Carolina Law School. As a student McKissick joined the NAACP and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
During the Second World War McKissick joined the United States Army and served in Europe where he reached the rank of sergeant. On his return to the United States McKissick continued to work with CORE and in 1947 took part in its first freedom riders.
McKissick established a law practice in Durham, North Carolina and in 1960 joined with local African American students in the campaign against segregated lunch counters.
In January 1966, McKissick replaced James Farmer as national director of Congress of Racial Equality. McKissick, now a supporter of Black Power, turned CORE into a more radical organization. This resulted in some moderates leaving the organization. Until he left in 1968, McKissick increasingly directed CORE's attention to the problems of the black ghetto.
For the next few years McKissick concentrated on developing Soul City, a model town and industrial project in rural North Carolina. The project was taken over by the federal government in June 1980.
Floyd McKissick was working as a pastor of Soul City's First Baptist Church when he died on 28th April, 1991.