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Tombstone Tuesday: Sampson W. Keeble

Sampson W. Keeble was the first African-American to serve on the TN State Legislature. He represented Davidson County from 1873-1875.  Earlier this month I was out at Greenwood Cemetery and happened upon his grave. 


As you can see, he is buried with his daughter and son-in-law.  The Tennessee State Library & Archives has an online exhibit of black legislators from Tennessee in which Keeble is included. His bio has several details about his personal life and legislative career. 

The bio mentions that he last appears in the Nashville City Directory in 1886, and now that Ancestry has Nashville City Directories now from 1879-1899, I was able to quickly look him up.  Looks like he lived at 100 N. Spruce St. 


Given how new his headstone is, and given that a previous bio of him indicates it was now known where he died, I suspect this marker may have been recently done, perhaps in conjunction w/ the TSLA exhibit?

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  1. I read where he grew up a slave in north Rutherford County and after civil war ran for office as the first Republican Black State Legislator. Great story that sadly is not widely known.

    • Thanks Mike for sharing the comment. Are you related to Sampson by any chance?

      • MIke Sparks

         /  February 7, 2012

        No no relation. The MurfreesboroPost.com just did a nice story. Visit MurfreesboroPost.com. Many thanks to writer Jonathon Fagon for a great story of triumph & tribulation.

  2. Thanks for the tombstone credit, but no, TSLA didn’t donate this tombstone. It belongs to the Cox family and was erected when Benjamin and Jeannette (Keeble’s daughter) died in the 1950s, so it’s over 50 years old. I believe the mention of Sampson Keeble was added by way of a memorial to him — but I don’t honestly think he’s buried there. He died in Texas in 1887, when his children were quite small, and was probably buried there before his young widow brought the children back to Nashville. BTW, we’re upgrading the website where you found this info, and it will be coming out in the next month or so in an entirely new format with LOTS of new biographical information we have discovered since the original site was launched in 2006. So stay tuned! I really appreciate the fine work you are doing with this website! Keep it up!

    • Mariel Cox

       /  February 15, 2014

      Dear Ms. Lauder (and the original author),
      Thank you so much for this information. These are some of my most inspiring ancestors and while I’ve heard many stories of their triumphs, some of this was new information. I look forward to visiting the grave now that I’m living in the south. Many, many thanks for the thorough post!
      All the best,
      Mariel Cox


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