Marshall Keeble

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Marshall Keeble
Born(1878-12-07)December 7, 1878
DiedApril 20, 1968(1968-04-20) (aged 89)
Years active1914–1968
Spouse(s)Minnie Womack, 1896–1932
Laura Catherine Johnson, 1934–1968

Marshall Keeble (December 7, 1878 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee – April 20, 1968 in Nashville, Tennessee) was an African American preacher of the Churches of Christ, whose successful career notably bridged a racial divide in an important American religious movement prior to the Civil Rights Movement. Keeble enjoyed an almost unrivalled position as an African-American subject of hagiographical biography by white contemporaries within the church of which Keeble was a member. A notable example of this is Roll Jordan Roll by fellow minister and longtime Keeble associate, J. E. Choate.

Early life[edit]

Marshall Keeble was the son of Robert and Mittie Keeble, both of whom had been slaves.

Marshall and his family moved to Nashville about 1883. He attended school in Nashville, but did not progress beyond the seventh grade.[1]


Marshall Keeble began preaching in 1897 with the support and encouragement of his father-in-law, S. W. Womack and other preachers. About 1920, he met and became a lifelong friend of A. M. Burton, founder of the Life and Casualty Insurance Company of Tennessee, who provided funding for him. In 1942, he helped found and became the first president of Nashville Christian Institute.[2] It has been estimated that during his life, he baptized over 40,000 people around the world.[2] Keeble was also primarily responsible for the establishment of several Christian schools, of which the primary surviving example is Southwestern Christian College. He also helped establish the Silver Point Christian Institute (now the West End Church of Christ Silver Point) in 1909.[3]

At the age of 83, Keeble became a world traveler. On his first journey (October 1960),[4] he and Lucien Palmer toured Israel, then proceeded on to Nigeria, where Keeble preached day and night to large audiences.[5] While in Nigeria, he was made an honorary chief of one tribe.[2] The second journey began in October 1962, which took Keeble, Palmer, and Nashville dairyman Houston Ezell all the way around the world. Their first stop was Nigeria, where Keeble engaged in training preachers and preparing for the construction of the Nigerian Christian Secondary School in Ukpom. The main administrative building at NCSS is named Keeble Hall in his honor. The Christians in Nigeria also pleaded with Keeble to start a hospital there, and he relayed the plea from pulpits back in America. Partly as a result, the Nigerian Christian Hospital was founded in 1965. From Nigeria, the three travelers went on to Ethiopia, India, Singapore, and Korea, among other places. Finally, they returned home via Hawaii and Los Angeles.[6]

In 1965, Keeble was honored by Harding University with an honorary Doctor of Law degree.[2] Tennessee Governor Frank G. Clement appointed him a Colonel Aide-de-Camp. He was the first African-American so honored in Tennessee history.[1] He preached his last sermon on April 17, 1968.

Personal life and death[edit]

Keeble's first marriage to Minnie Womack, a graduate of Fisk University High School, began in 1896. Their marriage lasted until her death on December 11, 1932. The couple had five children, all of whom died in infancy, childhood, or early adulthood; all preceded Keeble in death.

Keeble married his second wife, Laura Catherine Johnson, on April 3, 1934. A long-time friend and fellow preacher, B. C. Goodpasture, officiated at the ceremony. Keeble's second wife was born on August 6, 1898. She was baptized into Christ in 1913. She died at age 108 on March 5, 2007.

Keeble died in 1968. He was buried in the historic African-American Greenwood Cemetery in Nashville.[2]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Pioneer". Retrieved 2011-07-16.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Marshall Keeble | Church of Christ at Jackson Street". Retrieved 2011-07-16.
  3. ^ Mary Jean DeLozier, Putnam County, Tennessee, 1850–1970 (Cookeville, Tenn.: 1979), pp. 179-180.
  4. ^ Goff, Reda (2009) [1964]. The Great Nigerian Mission. Nashville, TN: African Christian Schools.
  5. ^ For details about this first journey, see Mary Campbell, From Mule Back to Super Jet.
  6. ^ The information in this paragraph comes from J. E. Choate, Roll Jordan Roll (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1968), 132-139.

Another semi-biographical account is His Hand and Heart: The Wit and Wisdom of Marshall Keeble by Willie Cato.

External links[edit]