R.I.P. Chief James D Keels of the Midwest Saponi Nation

Longtime chief of the Midwest Saponi Nation, James Dewey Keels, passed away on January 28, 2016. He served as chief of the tribe for 19 years and just stepped down this past year due to health concerns. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and community. Chief Keels served his tribe well and held a number of important political positions including mayor, councilman, and state treasurer. He was also a veteran of the U.S. Army. Below is the full text of the Chief Keels’ obituary. Afterwards, I will explain his family connections to the Native Americans in Granville County, NC.


James Keels (1930 – 2016)

RIO GRANDE — James Dewey Keels, 86, of Rio Grande, formerly of Cincinnati, passed away Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016.

Born Jan. 12, 1930, in Blackfork, he was the son of the late G. Dewey Keels and Huldah A. Howell.

After his service in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of Cincinnati studying business law. Keels was employed with the United States Postal Service, retiring as postal area manager with 37 years of service.

Keels was elected councilman and was the first black mayor in the village of Woodlawn, serving two terms. As mayor, Keels developed a 50-acre park, constructed a new municipal building, police station, fire house and swimming pool. He was elected the first black state treasurer and second vice president of the Ohio Mayors Association; executive vice president of the National Alliance Federal Employees; and was the first black chairman of the Cincinnati Postal Credit committee. Keels was instrumental in designing the village of Woodlawn flag which continues to be displayed in the village.

Community and civic involvement includes: Member and deacon of New Hope Baptist Church, president of the Gallia Economic Development Association, member of Gallia-Meigs Community Action, minority representative of Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, Woodlawn Youth Association, post commander of John R. Fox 631 American Legion, commissioned Kentucky colonel (twice), Ohio Rural Development Partnership, and member of the Midwest Saponi Nation, serving as chief for 19 years.

Recognition includes: Who’s Who in Government, Profile of Black Mayors in America, Who’s Who in Ohio, Who’s Who in Black America, Who’s Who in Government, Profile of Black Mayors in America and Honor Commendation for Outstanding Community Service by the Ohio State Senate.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy Wilmore Keels; daughter Tawana Keels; son Col. (ret.) James D. (Tara) Keels Jr.; stepson Kendall A. Gault; grandchildren; step-grandchildren; sister Gladys D. Grant; brothers Lloyd E. Keels, Russell E. (Annette) Keels and Raymond K. Howell; and a host of family, relatives and friends.

James was preceded in death by brother-in-law Charles “Foxy” Grant.

Visitation will be 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, at Thompson, Hall and Jordan Funeral Home, 11400 Winton Rd., Forest Park, Ohio, followed by funeral services at 11 a.m. Interment with military honors, Vine Street Hill Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the James D. Keels Memorial Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 446, Mason, OH 45040; or at any Fifth Third Bank.

Local arrangements are entrusted to Cremeens Funeral Chapel, Gallipolis. Please sign registry at www.thompsonhalljordan.com

Source: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/mydailytribune/obituary.aspx?n=james-keels&pid=177626380

James Keels John Blackfeather Jeffries
The late Chief James D Keels of the Midwest Saponi Nation on the left and John Blackfeather Jeffries of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation on the right. Source: Richard Haithcock
Chief James Keels
The late Chief James D Keels at a Midwest Saponi Nation tribal event. Source: Midwest Saponi Nation

The obituary lists the names of Chief James Keel’s parents – G. Dewey Keels and Huldah Howell. His father G. Dewey Keels descends from the same Stewart family found in Granville County’s Native American community that I blogged about here. His mother Huldah Howell is from the same Howell and Scott families of Granville County’s Native American community.
James Keels’ maternal great-grandparents were Wesley Howell (1843-1910) and Elizabeth Scott (1846-1916). Wesley Howell was born in Charlotte Co, VA and moved to Ohio with his mother Elizabeth Howell (1814-1912) and siblings in the 1850s. Wesley Howell was locally known as a medicine man and he married Elizabeth Scott, who was the daughter of Jefferson Scott (1810-1907) and Caroline Hockaday (1821-1892) who relocated their family from Halifax Co, NC to Ohio.
Wesley Howell medicine man
Chief James D Keel’s great-grandfather Wesley Howell (1843-1910) was a medicine man Source: Midwest Saponi Nation
Scott famly and Wesley Howell
Members of the Scott and Howell families from left to right: Newton Scott, Angie Scott Thurston, Oren Scott, Betsy Scott, Walter Scott, Lester Scott, Wesley Howell, Rose Scott, Porter Scott, Florence Scott. Wesley Howell and Betsy Scott were James Keel’s great-grandparents. The other Scotts pictured are the nephews/nieces of Betsy Scott. Source: Cathleen Drew
Elizabeth Howell (1814-1912) was the daughter of Elizabeth Howell (b. 1783). This elder Elizabeth Howell was the sister of Freeman Howell (1777-1870). Freeman as you will recall from this blog post, is the progenitor of the Native American Howell family found in Granville County.
Jefferson Scott (1810-1907) was the son of Sterling Scott (b. 1750) Revolutionary War veteran. Sterling was the son of Abraham Scott (b. 1710). Abraham had a brother named Francis Scott (b. 1720) who in turn had a son named Exum Scott (1754-1823). Exum is the main progenitor of the Scotts found within Granville’s Native American community.



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