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