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News | March 22, 2024

Minnie Kenny Remembered During Event at National Cryptologic Museum

The life and legacy of one of the National Security Agency's (NSA) Hall of Honor cryptanalysts was recently recognized at the National Cryptologic Museum (NCM). Nearly 70 current and former NSA employees along with NSA organizers, gathered for an afternoon of reflection and fellowship to honor cryptologic giant, Minnie Kenny.
Kenny started at the NSA’s predecessor agency in 1952 as a Communications Clerk. At the time, there were very few African Americans in that role. Kenny quickly excelled in language, traffic analysis and cryptanalysis. She rose through the ranks at the Agency, working at an elite “think tank” studying the future of cryptanalysis. Kenny served as Deputy Commandant of the National Cryptologic School and made her mark as a leader along the way.
The NCM was the backdrop for fellowship amongst the Phoenix Society members and the current workforce. Organizers say the event, “preserves the connection between former and current cultural influencers with an eye on the path laid for future generations at NSA.”
Kenny was known for leaving a red carnation on the desks of managers and employees she felt were doing a good job. So it was only fitting that organizers of the memorial event wore red as a representation.
Kenny’s impact is still felt within the agency. She influenced the career of NSA Chief of Staff, Marlisa Smith who said, “Her name speaks for itself. When you say Ms. Kenny’s name you are just in awe of her.” During the event, Smith told the story of being a very young person at the agency and being scared to approach Minnie Kenny. “When you did approach her, you got that warmth and you knew she really cared about the workforce”.
Former NSA Chief of Staff Ernie Green was also in attendance. He recalled walking in the halls of NSA and getting bumped by a woman who said, “I don’t know you.” That woman was Minnie Kenny. Green said from that point on, Kenny took him under her wing, taking him to Washington D.C., introducing him to influential lawmakers. Green talked about Kenny’s passion of furthering the mission to help elevate African Americans in the agency.
Another Cryptologic Pioneer, Lillian “Lil” Berry said, “The thing that impressed me most about Minnie Kenny was how she pushed us to do our best. How she encouraged us to get our education. She pushed us. The best thing is, she encouraged you to bring your families in, and we have three generations of my family here today.”
Other attendees, including Kenny’s former receptionist told the crowd funny anecdotes about Kenny, from how she liked her coffee to that overseas trip where her luggage was lost…twice.
Those in attendance had the opportunity to view the grounds of the future building named the Kenny Center, in her honor. The 700,000-square-foot building is expected to be completed in 2028. The Kenny Center will provide a modern platform to support Information & Intelligence Analysis (IIA) for NSA and the Intelligence Community (IC).
Guests concluded the afternoon with a tour of the National Cryptologic Museum, given by NSA Historian Dave Hatch. Attendees toured the tribute to Minnie Kenny and other Women in Cryptology, who were ahead of their time.
The overall theme of the day was honoring Minnie Kenny, the contributions she made, the influence she had and the legacy she left.
Guests left with red carnations, a fitting end to honor a life well lived.

The National Cryptologic Museum is the only fully public museum in the Intelligence Community and is now open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free and no reservations are required — click here for more information about the museum or to start planning your visit!