NAACP Salutes Longtime Supporter & Physician Rachel Keith

Jan. 5, 2007

The NAACP joins with others in mourning physician, role model and community leader Rachel B. Keith who died yesterday at the age of 82.

"We are truly saddened by the death of Dr. Keith?an extraordinary woman who made a dramatic impact in the life of our community everyday," said NAACP President & CEO Bruce S. Gordon. "Her examples of grace, scholarly endeavor and service will be missed. She made her mark on this world by the outstanding life she led."

Born Rachel Hannah Celestine Boone on May 30, 1924 in Monrovia, Liberia, Keith was the child of Baptist missionaries the Reverends Clinton C. and Rachel Tharps Boone. Her grandfather, Rev. Lemuel Washington Boone, was a founding trustee of Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. After arriving in America at the age of 3, she attended public schools in Richmond, Va. Following her mother's death, Keith moved to Rhode Island. By 1943 she'd graduated second in her class from Houghton College in upstate New York and completed her medical degree at Boston University's School of Medicine. In 1949 she was featured in The Boston Globe for making the highest score [at the time] on a medical school test.

After completing her internship at Harlem Hospital, she served at Brooklyn's Coney Island Hospital before moving to Detroit in 1951. Keith completed her residency in internal medicine at Detroit Receiving Hospital in 1953. She later joined the staff at Detroit Memorial Hospital and began a private practice with Dr. Thomas Batchelor in the Conant Gardens neighborhood.

Keith was active in the NAACP as well. "She was one of the first ladies of civil rights and one of the most respected doctors in the state," said Melvin 'Butch' Hollowell, legal counsel of the Detroit branch of the NAACP. "She dedicated her life not only to African Americans through civil rights but also as a pioneer for women in medicine. She blazed a trail for many others to follow."

Dr. Keith was a longtime Women's Committee member at the Detroit branch and co-founder of the NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner in that city.

She will be remembered as a mentor for all in the medical community, a strong advocate for her patients and for her personalized attention and care. "When you were in her office you were the only thing that mattered," said Dr. Arthur Johnson, Keith's best friend. "All of her patients loved her."

She is survived by her husband federal Judge Damon J. Keith, 1974 NAACP Spingarn Medalist and Senior Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, three daughters and two granddaughters.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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