Paving The Way For Others

 

When was 12 years old, I traveled to Conway, Arkansas in the company of the legendary Marshall Keeble, the most well known preacher in the Church of Christ. Marshall Keeble always drew large crowds of whites to his revivals, but he never said anything that he thought would offend  them.

It was hot and humid in Conway, and a rope was drawn down the center of the open-air revival. Whites sat on one side and the "colored people," as we were called then, sat on the other. When the invitation to discipleship was extended, the white preacher stood in front of the whites to welcome them, while Marshall Keeble stood in front of the colored people. 

 

The whites who came forward to be baptized were taken to the white Church of Christ, but the colored people were taken to the black baptist church where we were greeted warmly by the same people that Marshall Keeble had been telling were going to hell so fast that they were going to get a ticket for speeding.

 

After  we returned to Nashville, Tennessee, where I was attending the Nashville Christian Institute, and where Marshall Keeble was president,. He and his wife, Laura, stayed in the boys' dormitory. I said to the man that we all affectionately called "Pop," why don't you just tell them?" They have to know that this is wrong, and they will listen to you. Why can't you just tell them?

 

His wife came out of his room and said, "Floyd, let him alone. Let him alone."I said, I'm sorry, but I don't understand why he can't just tell them. I looked back at him and he was crying, and he said to me. "You think I like this any better than you do. So, you want me to just tell them. Then how are these boys going to school. Colored people don't have any money. It's the people that you want me to just tell that are keeping these doors open."

 

It was several years later before I understood what the 66 year old black preacher was trying to tell me.  He was willing to sacrifice his integrity as a colored man then so that I didn't have to sacrifice my integrity as a "black man" later. 

 

Other blacks, like Marshall Keeble, went without so that others, like me, could have.  They said nothing then so we could say somehting now. They had nothing then so we could have something now. 

 

My father, Alonzo Rose, who was a Georgia share cropper and my mother, Georgia Mae Rose, had twelve children. He gathered us together one day and said to us, "I want all of you to get an education. Learn all that you can, and whites won't walk all over you." We did, and they don't. 

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