Articles Appearing In The
Gospel Advocate After
The April 20, 1968 Death Of Marshall Keeble
The Memorial to Marshall Keeble
The Special Keeble Issue
Christian College Honors Marshall Keeble With Testimonial Dinner
As a Teacher
Feelings About "Roll Jordan Roll"
Recollection of Robert Keeble
from the Fields
Keeble And The College Lectureships
The Last Week Of His Life
Keeble, As I Knew Him
and Sayings Of
As a School Man
At His Home Congregation
Marshall Keeble I Knew
On Saturday, April 20, 1968,
the inimitable Marshall Keeble finished his course. Like Abraham, he
"gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and
full of years, and was gathered to his people." (Gen. 25: 8.) Had
he lived until December 7, he would have been ninety years old. He had
been preaching for more than sixty years.
services were conducted at the Madison church of Christ, Thursday at 11
A.M., by the writer and Albert Gray. Brother Keeble spoke to the writer
about this matter about the time we prepared his booklet, Biography
and Sermons of Marshall Keeble, in 1931. Brother Keeble was
preeminently a preacher. He will be remembered for many reasons, but
chief among these will be his work as a preacher of the gospel. He
possessed many noble qualities.
secret of his power and success was his humble and prayerful walk with
God. He believed that "they that wait upon the Lord shall renew
their strength." In his preaching one saw the devotional spirit of
the Psalmist, the glowing fire of the prophets, the evangelistic fervor
and zeal of the apostles, and the fearless courage of him who cleansed
the temple. He impressed the listener as one who was mightily in
earnest. He seemed to feel that woe was unto him if he preached not the
gospel. His mission was to preach Christ and save souls. His heart
yearned for the salvation of his people. He was not made proud and
boastful by his success and the many highly complimentary things the
brethren said about him, but rather the more humble and the more
grateful to an all-wise Father for enabling him to be used for good. He
realized that if he should cease to be humble he would be stripped of
his strength as Samson was when his hair was cut. With him, "the
power is in the gospel, not in Keeble."
his lifetime, Brother Keeble received many expressions of appreciation
and recognition. Men in all walks of life regarded him as an unusual
man. On his eighty-seventh birthday, Mayor Briley of Nashville presented
him a plaque bearing the inscription: "In grateful recognition of
Marshall Keeble for his long-time service to his God and to his fellow
man, preaching and teaching the gospel, baptizing 30,000 souls and
establishing 350 congregations. His life's work, including his
appointment as President of Nashville Christian Institute, is a shining
example of good citizenship."
Governor Clement appointed him "Colonel Aide-De-Camp" on his
staff, he paid Brother Keeble this compliment: "His major
contributions to civic causes, for benefits to social enrichment, for
dedication to Christian leadership, for devotion to international
education, and for a life of sacrifice to Nashville Christian
Institute." Brother Keeble was the first member of his race to be
put on the Governor's Staff in Tennessee.
he was in Africa in 1960, the students of the Nigerian Bible College
gave him a farewell party which was attended by the local governmental
officials. "During the festival Keeble was presented a robe and
made an honorary chief over one of the largest Nigerian tribes. He was
presented the `walking cane' of authority by the Paramount Chief."
O. Baird, President of Oklahoma Christian College, in 1962 said of him:
"Brother Keeble is as remarkable and astounding as ever. Four
thousand people came to hear him in Oklahoma City, marking the largest
gathering of Christian people under one roof at one meeting in the
history of our state. Scores of white brethren owe their conversion to
him. Almost every Negro congregation in our state was either founded by
Brother Keeble or reflects the imprint of his work through someone else.
In this sense he is as much like Paul as any man among us."
was only one Marshall Keeble.
was a man such, take him all in all, We shall not soon see his like
Advocate Volume CX - Number 18 - May 2, 1968 page 274,278
CX - Number 29 - July 18, 1968
The Memorial to Marshall Keeble
these days when it is difficult to find men of courage to step out and
face the storms of social upheaval and political turmoil, men that will
face the storms and the winds of change that are blowing all over the
world without bending to the forces of evil or the pressures of
politically motivated men in their quest for power, it is in these
critical days that we have lost a great man, a giant among men, Dr.
Marshall Keeble, an aged and honored soldier of the cross, our beloved
brother has passed to his reward.
flag was flown at half-mast in his honor. He wasn't eulogized by our
political leaders and political office seekers. He never won the coveted
Nobel Prize. He never led a
march or demonstration, peaceful or otherwise. He was never connected
with a riot.
Like Noah of old, he was a preacher of
righteousness. He pointed the way to thousands in their obedience to
Christ. He was not called reverend. He was a tolerant man. He was at
peace with all men everywhere. He didn't march for school integration,
but he worked and spent himself for most of his life for Christian
education. He gained equality and universal respect by the life he lived
and the work he performed before God and his fellow man, both black and
white. No day or week of mourning has been declared in his memory. But
he will live for ages in the hearts of the thousands he pointed to
Christ over the many years of his service to God and man.
think those of us that profess to serve the same God that he did should
build a memorial that the world might know about the dedicated life he
lived and the Christian example he set to his race and to all people of
all races everywhere. He was loved throughout the nation and the
world. This memorial should not be out of steel and stone, but should
be burned into the hearts of men everywhere, love, tolerance and
compassion for each other. The observance of this memorial will heal
the wounds that have been inflicted on this society in this and prior
Page Of Issue, Page 449
July 18, 1968
The Special Keeble Issue
It is a privilege to prepare
this Special Issue of the GOSPEL ADVOCATE on the life and work of our
beloved Brother Keeble. There are many considerations which make it so. A
few may be mentioned.
He deserved it. We know of no one who gave himself more unsparingly to the
preaching and teaching of the gospel. Across a period of almost seventy
years, he preached the gospel from the Atlantic to the Pacific; from the
Great Lakes to the Gulf. Like Paul, he was in "journeyings
often." (2 Cor. 11: 26.)
Our concern for the work among our colored brethren demands it. The GOSPEL
ADVOCATE, from the articles of David Lipscomb following the Civil War,
until the present, has encouraged and supported the work among the colored
people of this country, as well as of other countries. The
gospel is for all.
This generation needs the qualities that made Marshall Keeble great. He
loved the Bible and believed it with all his heart. To him the Bible was
complete and final authority. How often in his preaching he exclaimed:
"The Bible is right." The love of Christ constrained him.
accounted no sacrifice for Christ and his church too great. He loved his
fellowman, regardless of race or color. They all heard him gladly. He
never listened to alien voices which would array race against race. He was
too wise to be influenced by those who would exploit his people to foment
strife and trouble. He loved peace and always sought to promote it. When
he lectured at any of our colleges his crowd was the largest, his
commendations the warmest, yet he remained humble and modest. T. Q. Martin
used to say he had too much sense to be spoiled by the things admiring
brethren said to him. He possessed a fine sense of proportion and balance.
He stayed on an even keel. He was steadfast and immovable in his devotion
to truth and duty. He died as he had wanted to-in the discharge of his
duty-in the service of the Lord.
death has left a "vast lonesome space" in the lives of
thousands, but his noble influence will linger as an inspiration and a
Honors Marshall Keeble
with Testimonial Dinner
E. Lucien Palmer
the night of April 12, 1968, a Testimonial Dinner was held on the campus
of Michigan Christian College in honor of Marshall Keeble. Jim Bill
McInteer accompanied brother Keeble by plane to Michigan and served as
emcee at the dinner. Those featured on the program in giving tribute to
Brother Keeble were Lucien Palmer, Dan Woodroof, Milton Fletcher and O. A.
Johnson (MCC Board Member).
occasion was a delightful one. The Michigan Christian College Banquet Hall
was full (with three hundred attending). The speakers and the audience in
their own special ways gave honor and tribute to the life and works of
Brother Keeble. The Michigan Christian College A Cappella Chorus presented
a special program of songs especially loved by and meaningful to Brother
Keeble seemed to enjoy the evening completely, and when he spoke in
response to the occasion, he seemed to be as he always was-full of himself
and happy to be a part of God's world and the Lord's church. The entire
audience rose and extended honor and appreciation to him-his life and good
works. Even though we all knew his great age, little did we realize that
within a week he would take leave from his earthly house and move into his
Christian College was blessed to have this final opportunity to honor
Brother Keeble. He will continue to be honored here through the years.
With Brother Keeble we say, "To God be the glory forever and forever,
As a Teacher
day while teaching a Bible class at Nashville Christian Institute I asked
each student to define Christian education. His definition was written on
a piece of paper and handed to me. I read those definitions with a great
deal of interest and delight. One in particular still remains in my mind.
A young lady defined Christian education as "hearing Brother Keeble
speak every day."
education is certainly the message of the Master being taught by one who
walks in the steps of the Master. I know of no teacher who has done this
more than my beloved brother in Christ, Marshall Keeble. His constant plea
was, "The Bible is right." I have heard him make this statement
over and over again until it has become a great part of me. In addition to
knowing the Bible was right and defending it, he revealed the message
which he knew to be true with great fervency of spirit. Brother Keeble was
always enthusiastic, and always found the message of God to be challenging
had the good pleasure of walking and working with Marshall Keeble for ten
years. In all of these ten years I never came to know a weakness of
Marshall Keeble. I do not mean to imply that he was divine-he was human.
However, he had surely taken upon himself the divine nature. Every day he
tried a little harder to become more like his heavenly Father. As a result
of this effort, Marshall Keeble conquered his human weakness and grew
taller in Christ. Of all the good and great men of God whom I have been
blessed to know in my short life, none stands taller than Marshall Keeble.
foundation which under girded all of his teaching was his Christian
character and his knowledge that the Bible is right. He taught as one
"having authority." Wherever he went people came to hear and
hear they did. They heard a new message with new names, new ideas, new
commands, new principles and this brought them to new actions and new
relationships. Only eternity will reveal how many. He shared his training.
He taught a boy, a man, a preacher, or anyone who would listen. He always
looked forward to every speaking engagement. Record audiences were always
in attendance. He did it until his death. He was constantly working in
order to teach others who would teach others also. He desired that others
would learn and lead.
teaching was done in the midst of humble circumstances. Often during his
life of service he suffered shame and blame. When Marshall Keeble
"set his hands to the plow" there were no public accommodations
for him. There were few public services of any kind from which he could
receive assistance and encouragement. He bore this life gladly. Even as he
reflected upon many of these "unpleasant" experiences, there was
never a note of bitterness. Often he has told me that these circumstances
brought him closer to God and made him rely more entirely upon God. Once I
asked Brother Keeble how he had come to have such great faith and how he
had learned to rely upon God so much. I distinctly remember that he
stated, "I have had to rely upon God, he is the only one I had. The
white man didn't like me because of the color of my skin. The colored man
didn't like me because of my religion. Now son, who else did I have?"
May all teachers have the same faith of this great teacher.
Keeble often reflected upon many of the hardships which he experienced
during his long life of service. He found many of them to be humorous. He
was never discouraged by them and daily thanked God that they had fallen
upon him for the "furtherance of the gospel." He often turned
these experiences into lessons.
would love to share with you a few of the great lessons that he has taught
me. Early in my association with Brother Keeble, I went to him for advice
and counsel. I found this to be profitable. Often while presenting a
particular problem to Brother Keeble and asking what he thought best to
do, it did not take long until he had simply said, "Son, do what is
right." I remember on one particular occasion that he reminded me
that if I would do what was right that I could always sleep well. He
remained me that it would be necessary for me to sleep with my conscience.
That advice worked-it still does, and I am still trying to follow his
words of wisdom.
was in his office one day when a mutual friend came by to see him. This
person had really come to see Brother Keeble, but I remained in the office
long enough 'to extend greetings and exchange a few words. Before I could
get out of the office and leave Brother Keeble and his visitor alone, the
visitor invited me to remain and brought out the purpose of his visit.
During the course of the conversation, the visitor advised Brother Keeble
that one of his brethren was saying some unchristian things about him.
Brother Keeble simply changed the conversation making no remark concerning
the man's statement. In a moment, the visitor told Brother Keeble for the
second time. He also advised Brother Keeble that he should go to the
brother and correct him in order that this useless talk could cease. After
much persuasion on the part of the visitor, Brother Keeble replied,
"Leave him alone, don't bother him. He is going to be the means of my
salvation. I am going to overcome him."
another occasion when Brother Keeble and I were out visiting the brethren
in behalf of the work of Nashville Christian Institute, we were treated
quite unkindly. On the way home Brother Keeble simply remarked,
"Since it happened I'm glad it did, for it gives me another man to
pray for." By these great lessons, I have been encouraged to feel
more kindly toward anyone who would attempt to deal unkindly with me.
Keeble was a powerful teacher. I am persuaded that this great power came
from his contact with God. He loved the Word of God. He always enjoyed the
daily newspapers, the news broadcasts, good magazines, but above all of
these he loved the Bible. He let God talk to him. He not only permitted
God to talk to him, but he talked to God. How often Brother Keeble prayed
during the course of the day no man will ever know. I do know he prayed
very often. When he was in an automobile beginning a journey to a distant
point, he prayed. If he did not pray he would call upon someone else to
pray. As we rode along, he prayed-I would drive and he would pray. He did
not pray silently; he prayed audibly-I heard the words. Now of course, I
am confident that there were times when he did pray silently as we rode
the highways. Once when he, some of the boys, and I were getting ready to
leave for an appointment, we got into the car and I asked Brother Keeble
to lead us in prayer. He said, "I have already prayed." However,
without hesitancy, he prayed again. At night when he retired from the
activities of the day he prayed. It was not uncommon for Brother Keeble to
get up during the night, however, I have never known him to get back into
the bed without first kneeling beside the bed and praying.
days ago while talking with his faithful companion concerning the
preparation of this article, I told her that I wanted to reveal these
moments of prayer that took place so often during the night. She
encouraged me to do it, and besides this she told me that Brother Keeble
never came home at night without both of them kneeling by the bedside and
praying regardless of how late or even if she had already retired and was
asleep. She told me that during his last days it was not uncommon for him
to be sitting at home watching the television and he would often
"steal away" just to pray. Brother Keeble never left a man
without saying, "Pray for me." I am sure that if he had known
when his last breath was to be, he would have used it to say, "Pray
Keeble taught me consideration for others. He always came to know the
customs of other people and respected their customs. He sought out their
wishes and as much as possible he favored them. He never was offensive. He
was always considerate. He never wanted merely to "use" anyone.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all could be as considerate.
Keeble knew that in his course of teaching not all would be friends. He
knew many would criticize him-even his own brethren. He admonished me to
live so that you can "kill" your critics. On one occasion he
told me that "not everybody will tell the truth about you, therefore
be careful to live so that when something in error is told about you that
your friends won't believe it anyway, and your enemies won't be able to
could not tell all concerning this great teacher nor the lessons that he
has taught. To be sure, my life has been blessed. I am better prepared to
live and to die. I stand with that great host of students and join them in
crying out to the Lord, "Pour out upon me a double portion of his
Feelings About "Roll Jordan Roll"
the day he died, Marshall Keeble autographed one hundred copies of Roll
Jordan Roll, his biography written by our talented brother, J. E.
Choate. B. C. Goodpasture gave me one of these autographed copies. I shall always
be grateful for this and many other blessings and favors I have received
from Brother Goodpasture.
have enjoyed reading Roll Jordan
Roll. In this book Brother Choate has given a true picture of the
inimitable and incredible Keeble. Every boy and girl needs to read this
book, as well -as adults. Reader, you would do well to get a copy for
yourself, and extra copies for others, especially for young people.
Reading this good book will cause you to laugh, but it will also cause you
Moore said: "Humility is that low sweet root from which all heavenly
virtues shoot." Thoreau said: "Humility like darkness, reveals
the heavenly lights."
Brother Keeble was humble; he was clothed with humility just as the Holy
Spirit instructed him to be. (1 Peter 5: 5-7.) There is a lot of
difference in growing and swelling. Brother Keeble did not
"swell," but he grew! I never talked with him or heard him
preach but that I was made more humble, and made grateful for God's
"allowing me to be put in trust with the gospel."
seems that some zealous young men among us may think nobody has
evangelized yet, and these seem to want to tell us how evangelizing can be
done. Roll Jordan Roll makes it
clear that many have already evangelized-including many great Negro
evangelists, and they did it under the burden of great hardships and
difficulties. Brother, next time you talk to the Father, you thank him for
such great evangelists as Marshall Keeble and others mentioned in Roll
Jordan Roll. Also, "pray the Lord of harvest that he will send
forth" many more such men into the harvest.
scribe has often said that Marshall Keeble was the best psychologist he
ever knew. Reading Brother Choate's book has confirmed that conviction.
Choate has written a book that is easy to read: we should give it a wide
Recollection of Robert Keeble
Mrs. Keith N. Slayton
Keeble, father of the late, beloved Marshall Keeble, left neither silver
nor gold, when he died, but he left his family a much greater and more
lasting heritage-that of quiet dignity and an honest self-respect. This, I
believe, was innate in his son, Marshall Keeble, and was a contributing
factor in making him the noble and humble man of God, that we knew and
very simple recollection tells of this attribute of Robert Keeble-very
simple in itself, yet revealing so much of the man.
Keeble was born on my family "homeplace" at Murfreesboro,
Tennessee, where his family had lived for many years; in fact his father
was named for my great grandfather.
many times, during the lifetime of my mother and grandmother, I heard each
of them make the following statement, "Robert Keeble was always
neatly dressed, and always wearing a stiff white collar; I never saw him,
even though he might be plowing, without a stiff white collar."
few words but so revealing.
knew the dignity and worth of a man, made in God's own image.
from the Fields
J. E. Choate
Keeble has come up from the teeming harvest fields. "Tens of
thousands" of persons of many races around the earth swell the ranks
of the churches of Christ because Marshall Keeble preached
gospel. They gladly heard and many have gone into all the world preaching
the Word of God.
fought a close battle with death beginning on December 28, 1967, when he
was taken to Vanderbilt University with a severe infection in his leg
aggravated by his diabetic condition. The physicians feared an amputation.
It was "touch and go" for days. As
the year turned Keeble was recovering. When he got on his feet again,
it was apparent that time now was gradually eroding his life away. But his
mind was clear, and his "sparkling wit" had not deserted him. He
was able to preach first for the Jackson Street church; and a short time
ago, Keeble spoke to an overflow crowd for the church at Waverly,
Tennessee. Keeble spent some of his happiest hours on earth just a few
days before his passing. President Lucien Palmer invited his old friend to
Michigan Christian College.
dinner honoring Marshall Keeble was the high point of the trip. He
preached his last sermons in Inkster, Michigan, where Keeble's beloved
friend, Homer Black serves as minister. Mary Campbell met Keeble's plane
at the Nashville airport, April 17; and she described him "as happy
as he could be."
rested all Thursday. And on Friday, he autographed one hundred and ten
copies of his biography Roll Jordon
Roll. This writer spent endless hours the last two years of Marshall
Keeble's life while he re-lived his eighty-nine eventful years. This book
is Marshall Keeble's story. The author simply recorded it. The man doesn't
live who can tell the "Keeble story."
Keeble grew stronger, plans were under way for a busy summer. He was
scheduled to appear on the spring David Lipscomb College lectureship. A
gospel meeting was already scheduled at an early date in Milwaukee,
Saturday, the day of his death, Keeble rode with his wife to a car wash,
and followed her about in the Sears Roebuck store that afternoon. He told
Sister Keeble, "Next time you go shopping, I'm going to stay in the
that afternoon Keeble took a bath, put on his pajamas, and sat on the sofa
to look at television. Sister Keeble heard him make a sound while she
busied herself in the kitchen. She came to his side, his head was rolled
back, she held him in her arms, he slumped to one side and became limp. M.
Keeble was dead! Though he was rushed to Vanderbilt University, the
"little mighty gospel warrior" was already camping way out on
God's eternal fields.
day Wednesday, April 24, Marshall Keeble lay in state in the Jackson
Street church. A service was conducted at "prayer meeting" time
presided over by the minister, Albert Gray. A few of his dearest friends
spoke in the service, including Homer Black, R. W. Carvin, John O.
Williams and Lucien Palmer. A group of college students from Southwestern
Christian College in Terrell, Texas, sang special hymns.
Keeble's funeral service was conducted April 25, 1968 in the large and
beautiful building of the Madison church of Christ. T. M. Jones, of
Chattanooga, a long time friend of Keeble led the congregational singing.
Dr. Thomas A. Jackson, distinguished Florida educator, who is a nephew of
Sister Keeble, read the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. The music
was furnished by the sextet from Southwestern Christian College and the
Christian young people of the Schrader Lane church of Christ.
ago Keeble requested B. C. Goodpasture to preach his funeral. Keeble's
friend, Lee Hardy and personal barber gave the benediction. Marshall
Keeble had arranged with Mary Campbell the order of his funeral service
before passing. Marshall Keeble was buried in Greenwood Cemetery with
Albert Gray and Percy E. Ricks, his brother-in-law, officiating.
Brother Keeble is gone. Gladly did he live out his days and gladly has he
gone to meet God. He lived deep into the sunset of life; and when the
clear call came for him to go, without pain, and a heart filled with joy
and at peace with God and man, he left us. Our hearts were filled with
both joy and sadness as he rode the full tide out into the sea of
eternity. A long time will pass before the awe and wonder that Marshall
Keeble created in people still alive fades away. But the great influence
of this one life, so deeply etched in the hearts of thousands of people
living and dead- will grow down the gathering years.
thousands passed by the last earthly remains of Marshall Keeble. Somehow
the eulogy of Walt Whitman for Abraham Lincoln in his poem "When
Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" fits here: "For the
sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands" is gone and his voice
will no more be heard among us.
And The College Lectureships
was the good fortune of the writer to know Marshall Keeble over a number
of years and to have heard him preach on many different occasions. All of
these are pleasant memories, for Brother Keeble had power in his
personality and he knew so well the gospel as God's power to save. With
these at his command he was always an impressive person to know and hear.
of spirit and understanding of humanity made Marshall Keeble a challenging
individual. Long ago the writer was convinced that if we could produce
more of his kind we could solve every problem of race relationships. In
his presence one felt no barriers or feelings or superiority.
a number of years our lectureship committee at Freed-Hardeman College
invited Brother Keeble to conclude the week's program at chapel services.
He made these annually until 1968 when he was physically unable to be
present. (Willie Cato spoke in his stead.) Without exception Keeble spoke
to one of the largest audiences of each lectureship week. Many would stay
over, although they had long trips ahead, to hear Brother Keeble. Many
others came for this one particular program and they were never
disappointed. Students on hand and visitors from far and near found these
occasions to remember.
the lectureship committee would suggest a title for Brother Keeble, and on
occasions they asked him to prepare outlines for our lecture outline
books. Relying upon notes or manuscripts, however, seemed to keep Keeble
from being at his best, and so for a number of years we asked him to speak
"promiscuously." In this Keeble took great delight. Sometimes he
would say in beginning that he did not know what the title of his lesson
would be, but after a few moments he would strike some favorable point of
communication with his audience and that became his theme. It was always
interesting and usually related to things current among our brethren. His
talks came out of his long experiences as a preacher and from the overflow
of his knowledge of God's word. They left people with a keener sense of
appreciation for the gospel and its power as seen through a humble yet
fearless proclaimer of its message. They left indelible impressions not
because of logical and orderly treatment of a topic, but due to simple
illustrations showing the universal application of the gospel to life.
College is but one of many schools which had Keeble in its program of
lectures. We feel wonderfully blessed in the fact that we were able to
have him and that our students had opportunity to know him. We suffer
great loss in his passing. Others may come to fill the void in some
measure but none may ever hold the place of Brother Keeble. He was a great
and good man for any generation. His people produced no greater for ours.
Our colleges were wonderfully blessed by associations with him. His
lessons will linger and bear fruit. His illustrations will be recalled
with profit by all who heard him. His manner of life in the Lord's service
and his strong faith will long inspire those who had opportunity to see
and hear him. May our Lord raise up others to bear his mantle!
Last Week Of His Life
MARSHALL KEEBLE – Synonym for
Dan H. Woodroof
the last week of his life on earth, Marshall Keeble did what he had done
for most of his eighty-nine years of living. He powerfully preached the
gospel of Christ. More than once during these last days he expressed the
desire to live only to be used in God's service.
Friday, April 12 in company with Jim Bill Mclnteer, he enplaned at the
Nashville airport for Rochester, Michigan to attend a Testimonial Dinner
in his honor on the campus of Michigan Christian College. Attendance at
the dinner was necessarily limited due to lack of space and two other
appearances were scheduled, therefore, in the Detroit area so the many
hundreds of people who knew and loved him could hear him once again.
Saturday night, April 13 a full house at the Highland church in Detroit
listened intently as he spoke powerfully of the world's need for Christ.
He preached again Sunday morning at the Inkster, Michigan church where
Homer Black, one of "Keeble's Boys," regularly preaches. He
spoke again that afternoon to a packed house at the Taylor, Michigan
church and rounded out the day by preaching for the church in Ypsilanti.
engagement had been planned for him at the Belmont church in Dayton, Ohio
for Monday night, April 15. So, with MCC Vice President Milton Fletcher
and the writer, Marshall Keeble met that appointment and again thrilled a
capacity crowd with his simple but moving presentation of the gospel of
Jesus. His speaking appointments for the week culminated in a great
service in Cincinnati on Tuesday night, April 16 at the Clifton church. He
had preached six times and spoken for a few minutes at his own testimonial
dinner. He was doing what he loved most to do.
Keeble never lost his intense interest in people and in the things going
on around him. For the three days he spent in the Detroit area he stayed
in the home of Homer Black and discussed the church, the world situation
and argued politics! The writer was privileged to be his "valet"
and escort from Detroit to Dayton and Cincinnati and then on to Nashville.
These were three unforgettable days as we discussed the war in Vietnam,
talked baseball and even watched the Cubs and the Red Legs on television
one afternoon in our hotel room. He deplored the riotous situations in our
cities and freely doled out portions of his wonderful philosophy of life
which is unmistakably Christian.
Keeble grew old gracefully with Christ in his heart. He never lost his
balance and value perspectives. He was continually thankful, never
complaining. He kept his quaint good humor to the end and had his
companions of these last days "in stitches" a good bit of the
time. His gratefulness for Christian friends such as David Lipscomb, T. B.
Larimore, F. B. Srygley and others of the pioneers who encouraged him in
his early days was frequently expressed. His love for Mr. and Mrs. A. M.
Burton, Athens Pulleys, Lucien Palmer (who took him to Nigeria and then
around the world after he was eighty years old), Mr. and Mrs. Lambent
Campbell and others who have encouraged and supported him in his latter
days was very evident. To all of these he attributed whatever success he
has been able to achieve.
on Wednesday, April 17, 1968 Marshall Keeble came home to Nashville for
the last time from a series of preaching appointments. In some ways it was
the climax of many years of such returns home. During these last few days
thousands had heard him and had been blessed by what he had said and by
his very presence among them. He had returned from doing what he, many
years before, had set his heart to do. May the Lord be praised that
Marshall Keeble made his
decision to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ Jesus!
each of his last speeches he pled with the people to continue to encourage
young people to carry the gospel to the lost. He commended Michigan
Christian College for her emphasis on missionary training and expressed
gratitude for the coupling of his name with that of his long-time
associate in' evangelism and Christian education, Lucien Palmer, in the
establishment of the Keeble-Palmer Missionary Training Fund. Only eternity
will determine the great good that was done by this man while he lived and
through perpetuation of his memory even in death.
Keeble, As I Knew Him
lived to a ripe old age, as men reckon time today; but to a man of
Marshall Keeble's way of living, the years which were his must have seemed
relatively few in number. He had work to do, and his principal aim in life
was to accomplish his assignment. He was serious in his attitude toward
the great responsibilities of life; but even in that setting he could
manifest a wholesome sense of humor. For example, I heard him deliver the
principal address at the funeral service for Alonzo Jones; but in that
sad, but hopeful, situation, he had his audience almost convulsing with
laughter. This was not because he wanted his hearers to regard lightly a
serious situation; he wanted to control their emotions, and prevent their
giving way to uncontrollable grief. The result: people were baptized into
Christ before the day was over.
Keeble knew how to control himself. He told me on one occasion, after he
had preached in a community which was somewhat familiar to me, that a
white man came up to him, with the evident intention of striking him with
his clinched fist. But instead of resisting the apparent onslaught,
Brother Keeble remained perfectly calm, with his arms and hand hanging
peacefully at his sides; until the man, evidently realizing that he had
overplayed his bullying attempt to silence a humble gospel preacher,
turned and quietly walked away.
Keeble was not afraid to speak the truth, as he saw and understood it, on
any occasion when the situation demanded it. He loved the truth, and he
wanted all men to be guided by it. One has only to read his books and
sermons which have been left behind, in order to see just how he felt
about his responsibility as a gospel preacher. He knew how to speak to the
point, but he also knew how to soften the sting, as the shaft of truth
entered the hearts of his hearers, with the result that the gospel message
found a permanent abiding place, and brought forth fruit unto God.
is to his lasting credit that Brother Keeble knew that the most auspicious
conditions are not always the most favorable for the best results. On one
occasion he went to a well known city to do the preaching in a gospel
meeting. The white brethren, who were largely responsible for the effort,
had the tent up when he arrived. They had pitched it in what they
considered an ideal place, in a "good neighborhood"; but when
they took him out to see what they had done, they noticed that he did not
feel very enthusiastic about the situation. They asked him how he felt
about the matter, and he promptly told them that everything was nice, but
that they would not have much of a meeting there. The brethren then took
the tent down, and moved it to what they considered a much less favorable
location; but when the meeting was over, they saw the wisdom of Brother
who knew Brother Keeble were aware of his great faith. He wanted to please
the Lord here; so that he could be with him in eternity. He no doubt,
along with Job, often thought, and perhaps said, "For when a few
years are come, I shall go the way whence I shall not return" (Job
16: 22); but that was what he was living for. And so, with Paul, he could
look to the crown which the Lord Jesus Christ would bestow upon him. (2
Tim. 4: 6-9.) In the words of another, Unanswered yet? Faith cannot be
unanswered. Her feet are firmly planted on the Rock; Amid the wildest
storms she stands undaunted Nor quails before the loudest thunder shock.
She knows Omnipotence has heard her prayer, And cries, "It shall be
done, sometime, somewhere."
and Sayings of
Keeble became a legend in his own lifetime. It would be difficult to find
an adult member of the church of Christ who has not heard about him. So
impressive have been the acts of Marshall Keeble and the power of his
sermons, that endless discussions to decipher this man go on. Stories of
his exploits expand with each telling and his anecdotes are endlessly
contributions of M. Keeble to the church grew out of his preaching. His
genius lay in his power to grasp ideas and facts to help his audience. His
ability to present a Bible message through a simple story was a thing of
joy and beauty. Keeble said about this: "I can't explain my gift no
more than nothing. While some people studied the Bible to memorize it, I
studied it to reach people."
Keeble explained his preaching by saying that like Jesus he never spoke
except through parables: "If I can't make a parable, I'm lost."
His parables bear forever his name brand and are peculiarly his own. Some
preachers were once trying out for a church, and each preacher brought out
in his sermon: "Now as Keeble says. . . ." A lady complained:
"I've looked all through my Bible, and I can't find where Keeble said
a one of these things."
parables were built out of the logic of stubborn facts. Keeble described
himself: "I don't know how to use deceit. I have grown on facts. No
man with any sense will deny a stubborn fact." He often made this
statement: "The Bible is right. You can go home and fuss all night.
The Bible is right. You can walk the streets and call Keeble a fool, the
Bible is right. You can go home and have spasms, the Bible is right."
person who saw only the "comic" in Marshall Keeble completely
misjudged the man. He explained the value of his humor: "I am a
little funny or comical, but it's been a joy to me. It's kept my enemies
from bothering me. I have carried along a lot of humor just to flavor my
message. You can put too much flavor in anything. Does me good sometimes
to go home and lay in bed and laugh at myself. People are so easy to teach
if you know how."
favorite form of humor was always directed at a situation not the person.
For many years Keeble made annual visits to the Tennessee State Prison to
preach to some two thousand inmates. His irrepressible humor would be
brought into play: "I make them feel like they're just visiting-that
they're not in prison. I carry the sunshine to them. I go into the crooks
and corners. I call names sometimes. God deliver me from a hintin'
preacher." The prisoners would get a little peeved when Keeble would
say: "These - guards are your friends." And they both would
laugh. The prison authorities told him: "Prisoners talk about you
until the next year rolls around."
Keeble was a fine gentleman with indescribably gentle courtesy. Keeble
explained: "You've got to study people to get along with them. You
even got to study your wife. You even got to study mules." He would
tell this story: "I had a mule once I used to drive and he taught me
how to be a gentleman. If I came into the stable and didn't speak to him
like I ought to, and if I didn't hurry up, he'd kick me out of that barn.
I'd say, `Gee and Haw.' He knew my voice-that's all there was to it. But I
had to speak and use good manners."
had many a debate about "Nobody getting religion." They wanted
to know -"What's become of those 'old time people' before you got here
that you say never 'got religion."' That came up in the Bradenton,
Florida, meeting. There was a large cemetery on a hill near the tent.
right up there where you laid them. They ain't got up yet. You want to
know where they are going? I know your preacher done told you your mama
went to heaven early this morning."
Keeble would lower the boom: "Your mama didn't even get in heaven
late this afternoon. I don't mean no harm." Keeble would add:
"Your mama has got to be judged in the last judgment day."
Before he would finish everybody would be smiling. Keeble would end up
baptizing the "angry man who said Keeble's preaching my mama to
is no end to the Keeble stories and most are true. In a California
meeting, a young man challenged Keeble: "You have spoken about every
other church, now what about mine."
answered, "I don't know what church you are a member of."
young man responded, "The Latter Day Saints."
shot back, "You're too late!"
next night he was a little closer, and up he came to be baptized.
had a way of answering his "shouting religious neighbors" so as
to quiet them. The preacher of
Primitive Baptist Church would say that mine is the oldest church-it was
here "before the clouds were
flying." Keeble would say, "That's too soon. When Christ came to
set up his church clouds were already flying. You are too early."
Keeble would have to wait until the audience finished laughing.
humor was always "homemade" and some of his expressions are
classics. He raised countless thousands of dollars for worthy Christian
causes, and often he would say: "I'd rather have friends than
money." After a lively pause, he would conclude "provided my
friends have money."
stories and sayings of Marshall Keeble can not be separated from the
moment of truth in his sermons as he faced great audiences. What follows
is a miscellanea of Keeble's sayings, and anyhow all he said would fill
the Baptist died and never got up. I don't want in any man's church who
can't get up. The man who owns the church I'm a member of laid down his
life and took it up AGAIN. Had more power than before, he had all power!
Jesus is coming back again. John ain't never gonna come back."
means Empty on the gas gauge. Once I looked over and saw the tank was
empty and right down at the foot of the hill was a gas station. It was
night. There was a sign that said, `Open 24 hours a day.' That's what we
ought to do in the church, be open for business all day and night. The
station owner of the station said he had white gas, Ethyl gas, and regular
gas. He said he recommended the Ethyl gas that it would take the knocks
out. The church of Christ uses the `Ethyl gas' it takes the knocks
can't pray through-you can't get saved that way. You have to get up. One
person in the Bible was told to get up. He'd been there for three days and
nights without eating or drinking. He was told to `get up' and `wash.' Why
wash? You're dirty ... clean up then talk to God."
Christian education we would not have the churches we've got. The reason
so many churches in Nashville is because of Christian education. Wherever
the truth is taught you've got Christians whether the truth is taught in
the school or the church."
monkey has got more sense than a man, he won't chew tobacco."
worst man in town will respect you if you deserve it. Even a bootlegger
will respect you if you deserve it, but you start drinking the man's
stuff-and you're gone, sure 'nuf gone."
brethren are like dogs sometimes, you've got to pet this one to keep him
from biting that one."
when you play basketball and football they stop the clock. That's what
some members of the church of Christ do, they say `watch the clock,' and
they do it. They wear out their pockets lookin' at their watch."
I was a boy my mother made starch out in the back yard in an old black
pot. My mother made me stir the starch-you know why? So it won't scorch.
Brethren, I'm stirring you up so you won't scorch."
worst mistake anybody ever made was to see only the "clown" in
Marshall Keeble. Yes, we enjoyed him and all he had to say; but this is a
much better world for the Christian good will and human decency that
Brother Keeble brought into it.
As a School Man
Brother Goodpasture invited me to write an
for the special issue of the GOSPEL ADVOCATE
with the life and work of Marshall Keeble, I was delighted. My assignment
was "Keeble as a School Man." The first thing I thought of was a
quotation attributed to George Washington-who said, "Schools are for
those who cannot learn outside."
training was limited for Brother Keeble, but he was taught by the Master
Teacher, and there were not many areas of learning in which he could not
is not what we know, but the application of what we know. Those of us who
knew Brother Keeble, and worked with him, knew that he was an artist in
applying effectively what he knew. He was the best psychologist whom I
have ever known. Many times during the twenty-three years I worked at the
Nashville Christian Institute as a volunteer, I would go to him with
problems that seemed insurmountable, but in a short time he would give me
formulas that would remove mountains. He was an exceptional historian, and
he made history-not only in Tennessee but in every section of the United
States. He made history on two evangelistic tours in Africa, and he also
made history at many mission points of the church on his trip around the
world. He taught by perfect example economy in living for he had not one
extravagant habit. As a school man, he tried to instill in each student
under his tutorage "to be ready unto every good work." I am sure
this can be said without contradiction that Brother Keeble raised more
money for more different efforts in the Lord's vineyard than any other man
among us. Brother Keeble as a school man was a teacher of agriculture. He
sowed the seed of the kingdom. He knew how and when to water and cultivate
the plants and he trusted God for the harvest. He taught strict
stewardship to all who would listen-how to use their time and money in a
way that would produce growth in the church of our Lord. He taught
humility by his life. His life was filled and made vibrant by his concern
for his fellowman. In speaking, he disregarded many rules of rhetoric and
presentation, but he always captivated the audiences to whom he spoke. As
President of the Nashville Christian Institute, Brother Keeble did not
lose sight of, or faith in, the students after their graduation. He taught
in the classroom, but he entered the larger area of teaching through the
NCI Lectureships. The modern term would be "Continuing
Education" or "Adult Education," but Brother
was doing it long before the new words were applied.
eighteen years, the lectureship at the Nashville Christian Institute
served a unique function.
lectureships did not follow the format of those in other Christian
schools. They had a flavor and a purpose different and distinct. It was my
privilege for many years to work in the mechanics of the lectureship,
assisting in selecting the speakers, arranging the program, and other
essential features. It was Brother Keeble who gave life and leadership to
all that was done. It was in these lectureships that Brother Keeble's
stature, insight, and capabilities were successfully used. During the
program various brethren spoke; but it was Brother Keeble who, by his
comments before and after each speech, by answering questions, settling
differences, scriptually and tactfully, dealing with current issues, gave
a tremendous lift to all who attended. For the Christian men and women who
came back year after year for the lectureships it was not only a reunion
and period of fellowship, but it was a time of learning. They were no
longer school children but experienced men and women in the field. They
brought with them their successes, their disappointments, and their
ideas; and through Brother Keeble, all of their experiences were tested by
the word of God, and made positive in their future work for the Lord and
students loved and respected him, not for what he was, but for what they
were when they were with him. They loved him for overlooking the selfish
and petty traits which were in them. They loved him for closing his eyes
to the discord among them and for using these inadequacies to bring out
the possibilities that he could see within each of them. Perhaps this is
what being a teacher really means.
who knew Brother Keeble recognized that he was not a school administrator,
and to many people "Keeble as a school man" would not be listed
in Who's Who, but when one is taught of God and directs his teaching to
those who are made in the image of God his name will surely be listed in
the Lamb's Book of Life as a successful educator-a teacher in the school
first time I laid eyes on the unforgettable Marshall Keeble was over
twenty years ago in Orange, Texas. He was on his way to preach in Port
Arthur, Texas, at my home congregation. I was so anxious to see him that I
went to Orange, Texas, twenty-one miles away, to meet him. There, for the
first time, I saw and heard the one and only Marshall Keeble. He preached
a powerful sermon in Orange that night. I will never forget the
illustration he made about reading the labels on the cans instead of
feeling the cans. I was influenced by the great man that day and have been
influenced ever since.
Keeble established many congregations and one of them was my home
congregation in Port Arthur, Texas. He was a man who could say the
things about preachers. I remember so many times hearing him introduce B.
C. Goodpasture and many other preachers at the Nashville Christian
Institute, where he was president. He made you feel good all over just
calling your name-he had the magic touch. He was an inspiration to the
entire brotherhood. He was a man among men.
am thankful to God that I "caught" a large number of Brother
Keeble's sermons as I followed him around as he preached in different
places. I "caught" him when he was at his best. He was always
the master of the situation.
do appreciate the confidence that he had in me in sending me to hold a
meeting that he couldn't hold. A white elder told me that Brother Keeble
recommended me very highly.
Virginia, my wife, read to me the death of Brother Keeble from the page of
the Memphis PressScimitar, I went into my room and cried like a baby.
Truly I had lost one that was very dear to my heart. The feeling of a
great loss fell heavily on my heart.
wife and I, along with Sister Lula Emerson, attended his funeral. B. C.
Goodpasture, Editor of the GOSPEL ADVOCATE, delivered the eulogy. I have
been hearing Brother Goodpasture preach about twenty years and I consider
him one of the greatest preachers in the brotherhood, but I don't believe
that I have ever seen him any better than when he preached the funeral of
Brother Keeble. It was a masterful sermon. I know, because I
"caught" it on my tape recorder.
Keeble's latest book Roll Jordan
Roll was in my mail box waiting for me when I returned from his
funeral. This book is certainly great. If I could not get another copy I
would not part with my copy for a thousand dollars.
Brother Keeble called me on the
phone about a week before he died. I remember telling him how strong his
voice was and how clear it sounded. He certainly was in good spirit.
Little did I know or realize that shortly that great voice that moved
men's hearts all over this nation would soon be still in death.
"Sleep on, Brother Keeble, and take your rest. You certainly worked
hard and long for the Master you loved so much. Goodbye until on Jordan's
stormy banks we stand."
At His Home Congregation
thinking of Brother Keeble, I am reminded of Paul's charge to Timothy in 2
Timothy 4: 5. "But watch thou in all things, endure affliction, do
the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." Brother
Keeble was a true evangelist and had made full proof of his ministry.
secretary-treasurer of Jackson Street church of Christ, Brother Keeble
made the first payment on the property bought from Fisk University by the
the first gospel meeting held at Jackson Street, he learned to diagram
sermons and delivered his first sermon at the age of nineteen. During this
early development of Jackson Street church, Brother Keeble worked long and
hard. Among his many jobs was that of hauling water from a creek on
Hamilton Street to fill the pool for baptisms. He would drive his coal
wagon to the building, hitch his horse, and begin prayer services. Often,
he and his brother would be the only ones present, but passersby and
people in the community thought the building was full when they heard
their enthusiastic singing in praise to their Lord.
was during one of these services that he baptized his mother. This was one
of the crowning moments of his long career as an evangelist.
Keeble at his home congregation was Brother Keeble on the go. He accepted
his charge in the sight of God and the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the
word. He preached it in season and out of season, and was long suffering,
for he knew the time was come when men would not endure sound doctrine and
would turn from the truth. Brother Keeble's Christlike spirit and magnetic
force drew thousands of souls to Christ, and gave his home congregation
something to live up to. The peoples of this nation and many countries
came to know Brother Keeble and learn of his congregation at home. He was
proud of us and we were proud of him.
all his goings, Brother Keeble always returned home to tell of his works
done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was always greeted warmly by
the members of the church, especially the children who wanted to shake
"Pop's" (so he was called by those closest to him) hand.
Keeble was an inspiration to all who knew him, but especially
inspirational was Brother, Keeble to every minister who preached in the
pulpit at Jackson Street in his presence. He was always ready with a firm,
"Amen, that's right, brother." He made successful ministers of
men who otherwise would never have succeeded. His sympathetic attitude
toward speakers, whether they were seasoned or beginners, immediately put
them at ease. If a speaker's sermon seemed to be about to fail, he would
get in there with him, help him quote scriptures, and by so doing, bring
an otherwise doomed sermon to a successful climax.
Keeble was humble and down to earth. That made him great in God's sight.
Being a wise man, he feared God. (Prov. 1: 7.) "The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and
instruction." His courage and boldness left him without fear of man.
He went everywhere preaching the gospel, facing dangers from mankind and
health problems. He was not a lazy man, but a man full of good works, for
he was worn out in the service of the Lord.
Jackson Street church of Christ was Brother Keeble's home congregation, he
was at home in any church of Christ that used the Bible as its guide. He
believed and preached that all members of the church of Christ are one big
family, for he was always at home among Christians-whether in some remote
part of the world under the canopy of the heaven or in some modern
building with every convenience.
highlight of Jackson Street church of Christ for the past forty years has
been the annual meetings conducted by Brother Keeble on the first Sunday
of the year. These meetings would run from two to four weeks. Hundreds of
persons were converted to Christ during these meetings. The zenith of
Brother Keeble's effective ministry at Jackson Street came during the
latter years of his life. He rubbed against the rough edges of a man's
soul with the gospel. The man, woman, girl, or boy who was privileged to
hear Brother Keeble went away with a new outlook on life.
are some of the ways in which Brother Keeble influenced his home
congregation and will continue to influence it and many other
congregations for years
Brother Keeble loved Jackson Street church,
home congregation, and Jackson Street loved Brother Keeble. He will long
be missed in our hearts,
not in our thoughts, for his works live on.
Marshall Keeble I Knew
Percy E. Ricks
does one have the privilege of contacting so intimately one so
internationally known. My affiliation with "Pop" (Keeble) began
in 1919 in Tuscumbia, Alabama soon after I was discharged from
armed forces of World War I, and was married. Because of this friendship,
after the loss of "Pop's" first wife, he asked me to help him
find a companion. I could think of no one other than a quiet, serene sister
of my own good wife. So we had the good fortune, as we have so often
admitted one to another, of marrying two devoted sisters whose inspiration
and loyalty gave him freedom to pursue his evangelism
gave me the honor of observing and appreciating this.
year thereafter I made it a point to spend at least one week or more with
him in a meeting, from Ohio to New Mexico, including Alabama, Mississippi,
Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Florida, and Georgia.
was a quiet, meditative man who upon occasion could enter into the
joviality of a chosen group. He also would correct and advise and plead
for the necessity of one's commitment to Christ.
brings to mind an experience I had with him in Atlanta, Georgia. Brother
Keeble preached there two weeks and had only one woman to respond to his
plea. But he was not ready to quit. One hundred sixty-six souls put on
Christ in the third week of this meeting. These converts continued to grow
until they have become one of the largest churches in the brotherhood.
a meeting in Florence, Alabama, an objector rushed forward and fired a
shot which Brother Keeble ignored in the "Father-forgive-them"
attitude, and continued to preach while showing a compassion for the
weakness of this man, by standing between him and arrest. Nothing further
disturbed the meeting.
on another occasion in Alabama a sinner with brass knucks struck Brother
Keeble on the face only to have him turn the other cheek to the chagrin of
the offender who was quietly taken away while the meeting continued.
would not leave out the experiences with him at the Nashville Christian
Institute, where he planted seeds of love, thrift, loyalty, benevolence,
honesty and perseverance which have taken roots in the lives of such men
as attorney Fred Gray, Obie Elie, Dr. Thomas A. Jackson, Vanderbilt Lewis,
and Robert Wood.
Keeble was never disturbed. In the presence of man's anger he grew calm;
in confusion, he registered peace. All these things I say of him without
any exaggeration or sense of worship. His personal habits were simple,
orderly, and meticulous, without being fastidious. So, no one was ever
ill-at-ease in his presence. No one's shortcomings were food for his
conversations; but he was a faithful counselor of people in their needs,
using the Bible as his reference, or authority.
may continue to live under the sound of his voice in quiet communion with
his books: Biography and Sermons Of Marshall Keeble, by B. C. Goodpasture, From
Mule Back to Super Jet with the Gospel, by Mrs. Lambert Campbell, and
Roll Jordan Roll, by J. E.
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