Christian Chronicle

Two legacies, 50 years later

Marshall Keeble and Martin Luther King Jr. fought for ‘different things in different ages.’

By Hamil R. Harris and Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

Marshall Keeble was calling sinners home at a 1939 gospel meeting in Ridgely, Tenn., when a young white man approached him after the sermon.

The renowned black evangelist reached out his hand, thinking this was one more soul ready for baptism.

Instead, the man struck Keeble in the face with a set of brass knuckles and ran.

The Church of Christ minister recovered his balance and kept encouraging the crowd. The meeting’s organizers wanted to call police, but Keeble told them not to, later remembering, “I had to know how to meet him, or I’d get hurt bad.”

Despite violence and threats from white supremacists, Keeble never wavered in resolve to share the Good News with seekers black and white.

Fifty years ago, the world lost two famous black preachers.

On April 4, 1968, an assassin’s bullet struck Baptist pastor Martin Luther King Jr. on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. He was 39.

Sixteen days later — on April 20, 1968 — natural causes claimed Keeble, who had brought an estimated 30,000 souls to Jesus in a 71-year ministry career. He was 89.

King was the most visible spokesman of the Civil Rights Movement, while Keeble — who grew up in a time of racially segregated schools and churches — only quietly worked for integration.

Fred Gray, a civil rights attorney and longtime elder of the Tuskegee Church of Christin Alabama, knew both King and Keeble.

“Comparing Keeble to King is to compare two persons doing different things in different ages,” Gray, 87, said in a recent interview with The Christian Chronicle.

Read the full story.

This story 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)

Column: ‘Sister Keeble’ stayed strong in mind, faith

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