‘Sister Keeble’ stayed strong in mind, faith

The widow of famous traveling evangelist Marshall Keeble lived to be 108.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

I never got to meet Marshall Keeble or hear him preach.

I was a baby when Keeble, the famous traveling evangelist who started hundreds of Churches of Christ, died 50 years ago.

“I wish you would have had the chance of meeting him,” Daniel Harrison, minister for the Chatham-Avalon Church of Christ in Chicago, said as we discussed Harrison’s experience as one of Keeble’s “boy preachers.”

I wish that, too.

But I was blessed to interview Keeble’s widow during my time as an Associated Press reporter in Nashville, Tenn.

Laura Keeble was 104 years old — and still strong in mind and faith — when I profiled her for AP in 2003. (Even though I didn’t begin work at The Christian Chronicle until 2005, the tip for the story came from Lynn McMillon, the Chronicle’s president and one of my former Bible professors at Oklahoma Christian University.)

On weekday afternoons, Keeble sat in her nursing home room, content to watch Oprah Winfrey on television. But at 3 p.m. on Sundays, she expected someone to wheel her downstairs for worship.

“I’m going as long as I’m able,” said Keeble, who lived to be 108.

Baptized in a Mississippi creek in 1913, this gentle woman known as “Sister Keeble” boasted a spiritual strength that belied her wrinkles, white hair and wheelchair.

For much of her life, she lived in the shadow of her husband. But Sister Keeble, who also became “Mama” to dozens of young girls, had her own story.

Read the full column.

This column appears in the April 2018 edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Related: Marshall Keeble’s ‘boy preachers’ still baptizing and saving souls (reporting from Los Angeles)

Related: Two legacies, 50 years later