Marshall Keeble
1878-1968

Table Of Contents

Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Marshall Keeble
Death Of Sister Minnie Keeble - 1933
Death Of Sister Laura Keeble - 2007
Picture Of Marshall Keeble
Marshall Keeble Signature
Chronology On The Life Of Marshall Keeble
Other Links On Marshall Keeble
Advertisment From One Keeble Meeting
Location And Grave Photos of Marshall & Laura Keeble

  

Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Marshall Keeble

Marshall Keeble  was born near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, December 7, 1878. He was the son of former slaves, Robert and Mittie Keeble. At the age of four, his family moved to Nashville.  He was baptized by Preston Taylor in the Gay Street Christian Church in 1895. Keeble was seventeen years old. He was never educated beyond the seventh grade. His first job was working in a bucket factory six to ten hours a day at around 40¢ per hour.

He married his first wife, Minnie Womack, the daughter of S.W. Womack in 1896. She was a graduate of Fisk University High School. After their marriage, Marshall worked for a time in a soap factory. Later he purchased a grocery store. He also purchased a huckster's wagon. Minnie ran the store while Marshall sold the produce on a route around the streets of northern Nashville. Later a second store was purchased.

Keeble's life's work, however, was that of a gospel preacher. He began preaching in Nashville, Tennessee in 1897, preaching at the Jackson Street Church of Christ. Though preaching in many places, he did not involve himself in located work. In 1914 he decided to give up all his business interests and preach the gospel only.  He dedicated himself to evangelistic work holding gospel meetings in brush-arbors, tents, barns and church buildings. He established over 200 congregations over the next sixty years of preaching. Sometimes he would baptize over 100 people in a single gospel meeting. In the 1930s he wrote to the Gospel Advocate stating that he had baptized over 15,000 people. Estimates range between 20,000 and 40,000 people as being baptized by this great gospel preacher in his life time. He was an evangelist that was most influential among both African American and Caucasian people. His preaching took him from Florida to Washington, and from California to the northeast. He made numerous trips to Nigeria where he had great success in evangelistic efforts. In later years, he often opened or closed college lectureships all over the country. Read one of his transcribed lectures here.

Much can be said about the effect that Keeble had in his preaching and teaching. However he would have been the first to admit that much of his success was due to the empowerment he received both through the gospel and his life-long friendship with A.M. Burton. Burton, a fellow Christian, and owner of The Life And Casualty Company Of Nashville, financed the work of Keeble from the early 1920s, and helped him in both his travels and his work for the rest of his life. The Bible and Burton gave Keeble the ability to make the world a better place.

Marshall and Minnie were married for thirty-six years until her untimely death on December 11, 1932.   They had five children, two of which died in infancy. One of their sons, Clarence, died at the age of ten when he was electrocuted by touching a high voltage wire on a utility pole in their front yard. Another daughter died in 1935, and their final son, Robert died in 1964, making his first wife and all his children precede him in death.

After the death of his wife, he met a young woman from Corinth, Mississippi by the name of Laura Catherine Johnson. They were married on April 3, 1934. B.C. Goodpasture, long-time friend and gospel preacher, was involved in a gospel meeting in Florence, Alabama at the time, and came over to Corinth, to perform the ceremony. When Goodpasture arrived in Corinth, Keeble was not present. He did not show up for another hour. When he arrived, the first thing B.C. said to him was, "She's backed out!" To this Keeble responded, "No, sir, she hasn't backed out!" They were married in her family home on Foote Street. It was said that Keeble almost broke up his own wedding with his "Amens!" Laura and Marshall never had children, but she was mother to the children he had by his first wife, Minnie.

In 1942 he became the first president of the Nashville Christian Institute. The Institute opened its doors in 1940 as a night school for adults. When Keeble became president, it began offering day classes to young people, ultimately developing into a K - 12th grade school. He served as president until 1958.

He held many debates in his lifetime. His first debate was with his father, Robert, who had attached himself to a religious group called "Do-Rights." The debate was over foot-washing and The Lord's Supper (The "Do-Rights" used water in the place of grape juice.)  Later Marshall was in a four-night debate with a holiness preacher in Birmingham, Alabama, May, 1922 on water baptism, foot washing, and the Holy Spirit. Still later he debated a Holiness preacher in Paducah, Kentucky in 1924 on the necessity of baptism, foot-washing, and water in the Lord's Supper. In 1927 he debated again on foot-washing, the Holy Spirit and baptism. On January 24-26, 1928 in Jackson, Tennessee he debated a Holiness preacher by the name of G.T. Haywood on the subjects of water baptism, the Holy Spirit, and miracles. In 1930 he debated on the Church and the Sabbath. He debated an Adventist in Denver, Colorado in 1932 and held another debate in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1932. In 1934 he debated a Holiness preacher in Florida and a Baptist in Lawton, Oklahoma. He held a debate with a Baptist in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1938. Marshall was highly successful in the field of debate. It was said that all his opponents, after facing Keeble, retired from the debating arena. None of them ever came back for a second try.

Keeble wrote numerous articles for journals including: Gospel Advocate, Firm Foundation; Christian Echo and others. A book was edited and produced by B.C. Goodpasture and the Gospel Advocate in 1931 called, Biography and Sermons Of Marshall Keeble. He wrote his autobiography, History of My Life (or) Mule Back To Super Jet With The Gospel, printed by the Gospel Advocate in 1962. In 1968 a biography was released by J.E. Choate, Gospel Advocate Co., covering the life of this great preacher.

Death came to this great man of God April 20, 1968. B.C. Goodpasture preached his funeral, where over 3000 people were in attendance. His body was laid to rest in the Greenwood Cemetery on Elm Hill Pike.

In his lifetime he worked to overcome many obstacles for African Americans, both in education and preaching the gospel he loved. He broke many of the cultural barriers that separated black and white people. In 2000 the Christian Chronicle named Marshall Keeble the most influential preacher among churches of Christ in the decade of the 1940s. Perhaps it could be said that Marshall Keeble was the most influential preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the 20th century. 

The Death of Sister Keeble - 1933

On December 11, 1932, at 3:30 A.M., Sister Keeble, the faithful wife of our Brother M. Keeble, fell asleep in Jesus. She is survived by her husband, one son, one daughter, two granddaughters, and her mother. She lived to see her fifty-third birthday, and had been in the church for forty years.

The funeral service was conducted by the writer in Brother Keeble's home on Jefferson Street, Nashville, Tenn., in the presence of a large crowd of friends and loved ones, assisted by Brother O. L. Aker, of Florence, Ala., the minister of the colored church of Christ there.

Sister Keeble did not live out her threescore and ten years, but her life was a glorious success, and she accomplished more than thousands of those who live to be eighty years old. I am not misstating facts when I say this good woman gave to us Brother M. Keeble, her faithful husband, as one of the greatest preachers of our day. I think he would say that she had much to do in making his work as a minister a phenomenal success. She took a great interest in all young preachers. Brother Aker has the following to say about her in this respect:

"She was such a good adviser of young preachers. I can never forget how she encouraged me the last time I talked with her. It was in July, 1932, while I was in a meeting at the Jackson Street church of Christ."

Brother Keeble, learning of her serious condition, left his work while in the Middle West in a revival and rushed home, and was at her bedside the last two weeks that she lived. Noone was more interested in Brother Keeble's work than his faithful wife, and no one has ever appreciated a wife more than Brother Keeble appreciated this good woman. Sister Keeble was a university graduate, loved God and his word, and she meant so much to her faithful husband.

The Gospel Advocate wants Brother Keeble to know he has our love and sympathy. He will go on with his great work without letting up in the slightest degree in his efforts to extend the kingdom among his people. Sister Keeble will continue to live in him by his trying to do just twice the amount of work he has formerly done.

To a child of God death is glorious. It is precious in the sight 'of God. (Ps. 116: 15.) It simply means to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Cor. 5: 6-8.) It is departing and being with Christ, which is very far better. (Phil. 1: 23.) This is what the Bible says. Paul says he does not want us to be ignorant concerning those of our loved ones who are asleep in Jesus. (1 Thess. 4: 13-18.) Note the words of William Croswell Doane on "Death and Life":

"We are so stupid about death. We will not learn
 How it is wages paid to those who earn,
 How it is gift for which on earth we yearn,
     To be set free from bondage to the flesh;
 How it is turning seed corn into grain,
 How it is winning heaven's eternal gain,
 How it means freedom evermore from pain,
     How it untangles every mortal mesh.

"We are so selfish about death. We count our grief
 Far more than we consider their relief,
 Whom the great Reaper gathers in the sheaf,
     No more to know the seasons constant' change;
 And we forget that it means only life–
 Life with all joy, peace, rest, and glory rife,
 The victory won, and ended all the strife,
     And heaven no longer far away and strange."

-S. H. Hall, Gospel Advocate, May 4, 1933, p.429.

Death Of Sister Keeble - March 5, 2007

‘Sister Keeble,’ widow of famous traveling evangelist, dies at age 108
 
By Tamie Ross
The Christian Chronicle

Laura Keeble, the widow of the late traveling evangelist Marshall Keeble, has died at a Nashville, Tenn., nursing home. She was 108.

Baptized in a Mississippi creek 94 years ago, the gentle woman best known as “Sister Keeble” boasted a spiritual strength that belied her wrinkles, white hair and wheelchair.

Even in her later years, she expected someone to wheel her downstairs each Sunday afternoon for worship service.

“I’m going as long as I’m able to get up,” she said at age 104 in a 2003 interview with Christian Chronicle managing editor Bobby Ross Jr., then a religion writer for The Associated Press.

For much of her life, Keeble lived in the shadows of her husband, who started more than 250 Churches of Christ, mainly black congregations in the South, and quietly helped bring about integration.

But this humble woman who became "Mama" to dozens of young girls had a story of her own — one of race, faith and perseverance.

At times, Keeble forgot details such as relatives' names. Still, she recited Scripture easily while discussing her commitment to Jesus Christ.

"God wants you to preach the Bible, in season and out, reprove and rebuke, with all long suffering," she said in the 2003 AP interview.

She could tell you all about her grandmother, who was born before the Civil War, and she really shined when she talked about her late husband, Marshall Keeble, who was already a well-known minister when they met.

"Ain't he a dandy?" she said, holding a black-and-white photograph of her husband of 34 years. "He loved to dress and go preach. He'd say, 'Come on, Mama, let's go to church.' "

In the 2003 interview, she chuckled as she recalled their drawn-out honeymoon: a three-month tent revival that he preached in California.

Born Aug. 6, 1898, Laura Catherine Johnson was one of seven girls and three boys in her family. Her father, Luke, worked in an iron foundry. Her mother, Susan, was a nurse.

When Marshall Keeble came along, Laura was 35 and wondering if she might die an "old maid."

Keeble, the son of slaves, was a recent widower and 20 years older than Laura. His first wife, Minnie, a Fisk University graduate, helped teach Keeble how to read and write. In 36 years of marriage, they had five children, two of whom died in infancy.

"Some of you ought to find me a good wife," Keeble told friends after Minnie died from an illness. "I can't live single the rest of my life as young as I am."

Percy Ricks, husband of Laura's older sister Willie, suggested his sister-in-law.

Marshall Keeble initiated the courtship with letters. To see a preacher "flirting around with a woman" disgusted him, he said, so he never spent more than five minutes alone with her before they married.

Keeble later said, "Ricks told me I'd get the best rose in the Johnson flower garden, and I think I did."

While the minister spent weeks and even months on the road, Sister Keeble stayed home.

"There was plenty to do at home to keep her occupied," author Willie Cato wrote in the book His Hand and His Heart ... The Wit and Wisdom of Marshall Keeble.

“She became a very loving mother to his three children and also to the grandchildren. ... Laura knew that Keeble was doing what he loved to do and what he did best _ preaching the Gospel.

"She loved him dearly and always supported him in his efforts to evangelize the world."

Later, when Keeble served as president of the Nashville Christian Institute, a school for black children, his wife kept up to a dozen girls at a time in her home. She never gave birth to a child, but she became "Mama" to many.

After Keeble's daughter, Beatrice, died after a lengthy illness in 1935, Sister Keeble raised her two young daughters.

March 7, 2007

Copied From The Christian Chronicle


Signature of Marshall Keeble
Courtesy of Terry J. Gardner, 03.2010

Chronology Of The Life Of Marshall Keeble

Year

Month

Incident

1878

December 7

Marshall Keeble born in Rutherford County, TN 2 1/2 miles from Murfreesboro. Parents were Robert and Mittie Keeble

1882

 

Moved to Nashville

1895

 

Age 17 - Baptized by Preston Taylor in the Gay Street Christian Church

1896

 

Married Minnie Womack. (Had Five Children, Two died in infancy. Clarence killed at age 10. Went to work in soap factory)

1897-1907

 

With Aleck Campbell and S. W. Womack pulled out of Christian Church. Started Jackson Street Church. Started preaching—Operated Huckster's Wagon.

1898

August 6

Laura Catherine Johnson born in Mississippi

1908

 

In May, Womack reported in Gospel Advocate that M. Keeble preached for a small band of disciples at the Dozier School house.

1914

 

Decided to give up all and preach the gospel the rest of his life

1916

 

Reported to G.A. - had preached 365 sermons, baptized 118, restored 47, visited 65 sick people, performed 1 marriage ceremony, preached 4 funerals, visited 36 places, and traveled 7,000 miles and was paid $795.15. Buse Crooms.

1917

 

Preached 4 night meeting in Henderson, TN

1918

 

Established Church in Henderson, TN 3 week meeting. Baptized 84.

1919

 

Returned to Henderson for meeting, work had grown to 100. Meeting in Collierville, TN. Moved to Detroit, Michigan

1920

 

Preached protracted meetings all through the South

1921

 

Birmingham Meeting, baptized 45. Meeting in Henderson, TN. Meeting in Utica, MS. For the year -conducted 14 meetings, baptized 140, restored 59.

1922

May

4 night debate with Holiness preacher in Birmingham Alabama

1923

 

Conducted 18 meetings, baptized 208, restored 59 and started 2 new congregations. Meeting at Washington D.C., Meeting at Stargis, MS.

1924

 

Conducted 21 meetings, Oakland, Cal. Debate in Paducah, Ky with Holiness preacher, meeting 3 debates.

1926

 

Summit, Ga. meeting - Ku Klux Klan. Meeting at Jackson Street Church 3 baptized, one was his mother. Decatur, Ala. Meeting. Florence, Ala. Meeting. Had visited 6 states, preached 363 sermons, 21 meetings, Baptized 163, 31 restored.

1927

 

Jackson St. services broadcast over radio station, WLAC. 5 week meeting in Tampa, Fla. 99 Baptized, 4 were preachers. Meeting in Jackson, TN , Baptized 58. Meeting in Sheffield, Ala. For the year-Baptized 295; Debate on Foot-washing, baptism, H. Spirit;

1928

January 24-26

Debate with D. T. Haywood on water baptism; H.Sp. & miracles

 

 

By Oct. had baptized 343

1929

 

Started Church of 65 in Lakeland, Fla. Baptized 92 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Stayed 14 weeks in Fla. and baptized 202. Meeting in Fort Smith Ark. Baptized 81

1930

 

Preached 396 sermons, almost continuously for 46 weeks - 15 meetings and baptized 420 - 19 were preachers. Valdosta, Ga. Meeting. Ripley, MS; Had debate on Church & Sabbath

1931

 

Returned to Valdosta, Ga. - "Biography and sermons of Marshall Keeble". Atlanta, Ga. meeting. Bradenton, Fla. meeting, - 296 baptized. Jacksonville, Fla. Meeting. Ku Klux Clan

1932

December 11

Minnie dies at age 53 after 36 years of marriage; Debate in Denver, Colorado on Adventism; & another debate in Muskogee, Ok

1933

 

Clinton, Okla. Meeting, baptized 35 including a Methodist and a Baptist Preacher

1934

April 3

Married Laura Catherine Johnson of Corinth, Miss. (B.C. Goodpasture officiated) (She never had children with MK)

 

 

Debated Holiness preacher in Florida; Lawton, Okla. meeting. Challenged to debate

1935

 

Baptized a Negro Lawyer and 3 preachers in Tyler, Texas. Work in Fla. Beatrice Elnora (daughter) dies

1936

 

Had baptized an estimated 15,000 people. Debate with 7th Day Adventists Michael John. Meeting in Springfield, Missouri -Baptized 2 negroes and 5 whites

1937

 

Was in Henderson, in a meeting, during the lectureship of Freed-Hardman College

1938

 

Meeting in Moundville, West Va. Visited home and grave site of Alexander Campbell; Debated a Baptist in West Palm Beach, Florida

1939

 

Meeting in Ridgely, TN. Struck with brass knuckles

1940

 

Nashville Christian Institute opened. Keeble was member of Board of Directors and served on the Executive Board

1942

 

Became head or "President" of Nashville Christian Institute. A.M. Burton estimated that Keeble had baptized 25,000 people

1945

 

Meeting in Natchez, MS with 4 of his "preacher boys"

1946

 

Meetings with "preacher boys"

1954

 

Meeting in Beamsville, Ontorio, Canada

1958

 

Stepped Down From Presidency of NCI

1962

 

Two trips to Holy Land and Nigeria

1963

 

Eye-Surgery

1964

 

Son, Robert dies

1968

April 12

Testimonial Dinner for MK at Michigan Christian College

 

April 20

Dies at Nashville, 89 years old; 3000 attend funeral with B.C. Goodpasture presiding. He has baptized over 40,000

2007

March 5

Laura dies at Nashville at the age of 108.

Sketches From Gospel Advocate On Marshall Keeble

Lecture At David Lipscomb College - 1948

Hear Audio Sermons Of Marshall Keeble

Sample Advertisement Of One Keeble Meeting

Location of Grave

Marshall and Laura Keeble are buried in the Greenwood Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee, located at 1428 Elm Hill Pike. It is an African-American cemetery. It is located just down the road from the Gospel Advocate Bookstore. If heading west on I-40, take Exit 213, Spence Lane and turn right. Turn left on Elm Hill Pike, and enter the cemetery on your right. When entering the cemetery immediately pull over to the right hand side. The section to the right is the Garden of Hope. Walking into the section from the entrance you will see 9 rows of graves. Keeble is in the fifth (middle) row about midway from the entrance of the cemetery and the far end, in Lot 77 - B1.

Note: Keeble's first wife, Minnie Lee, died in December, 1932. She is also buried in the same cemetery, but in a different location than that of Marshall and Laura. Her Plot info is as follows: Burial Date - Dec. 13, 1932; Section 5, Lot 172 N 1/2; Space/Grave 667. Some kindness needs to be shown by someone willing to place a marker in the cemetery for Minnie, and some of the Keeble children who are buried next to her.

GPS Coordinates
N36º 08' 39.1" x WO 86º 43' 24.5"
or D.d. 36.144254,-86.723489
Accuracy To Within 18'
Facing North


View Larger Map

 


On September 30, 2004 It Was My Privilege To Witness The Placing Of
Marshall Keeble's Updated Monument Headstone. According To The Attendant
It Was Ordered By Keeble's 106 Year Old Wife, Laura.

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