J. FRANK KEITH. Beaumont has produced many generous and public spirited citizens, men who figure prominently in its history because their unselfish interest in the common welfare has made possible the city of today, and of these none are more conspicuous, or have done more for the community than did J. Frank Keith, who, throughout more than a quarter of a century was the spirit of progress, holding Beaumont first in his interest, and contributing to its growth in every way. Mr. Keith was a man whose high ideals of citizenship prompted him to make Beaumont his first consideration, and although he acquired wealth during the years of his residence here, it is not as a capitalist that he was best known, but as a city builder. When new advantages were offered the city, when some progressive movement was first launched, he was always the first to come forward and contribute to it in a way that insured its success, and today these enterprises which he sponsored form the backbone of the city's prosperity, and are a monument to the vision of this splendid citizen.
J. Frank Keith was born in Jasper County, Texas, on the eighteenth day of December, 1857, son of Henry Cortes Lafayette Keith and Sarah E. (LaPorte) Keith, who came to Jasper County during the early pioneer days. When he was a small lad, during the Civil War, the family moved to Sabine Pass, where the father's death occurred in 1869. J. Frank Keith then came to Beaumont and became identified with the mill operated by Long & Company, then located on Brake's Bayou, and here he learned the lumber business while yet a boy. Later he went to Village Mills, a short distance from Beaumont and became general superintendent of the Village Mills Company, building a saw mill which at that time was considered the largest and best equipped mill in the country. Eight years later Mr. Keith returned to Beaumont in an executive capacity with the Texas Tram Company and also at that time purchased the property now occupied by the Keith Building. In 1899 he organized the J. F. Keith Company, operating a saw mill at Hook's Switch, and later disposing of this property to the Kirby interests. In 1902 he organized the Keith Lumber Company, building the large mill at Voth, which he operated until his death. Mr. Keith was one of the founders of the American National Bank and a director in that institution until his death, and was also interested, financially and otherwise, in practically every other enterprise in Beaumont.
J. Frank Keith was married the twenty-ninth of March, 1882, at Beaumont, to Miss Alice Carroll, a member of a pioneer Jefferson County family, and daughter of F. L. Carroll, pioneer lumberman of Beaumont, and one of the builders of Baylor University, of which he was treasurer for many years, and Sarah Prichard Carroll. Mrs. Keith has long been interested in civic affairs at Beaumont, and is widely known for her many benefactions as well as her interest in and aid of all matters in which Beaumont women are concerned. She is a constant worker for the advancement of Beaumont, much of her time being devoted to work for the United Charities, in recognition of which she has been made honorary president for life, and for life, and for the Day Nursery and other like organized charity and social work. Mr. and Mrs. Keith had an ideal home life, delighting in the charming home they had made, and in the family of children whom they reared. The only son is W. Carroll Keith, president of the Keith Lumber Company. He is married to Miss Blanche Doucette, and they have one child, William Carroll Keith, Jr. Four daughters were born to Mr. and Mrs. Keith: Cecil, wife of Chester A. Easley, of Beaumont; Olga, wife of Harry C. Wiess, of Houston; Azilee, wife of Con Clark, of Beaumont, and Alice, wife of Harry Hutchison, of Beaumont.
Mr. Keith was the first park commissioner of Beaumont, and has for many years devoted much time to this work, building Keith Park, one of the most attractive pleasure spots of Beaumont, himself. He was one of the earliest and most enthusiastic supporters of the deep water harbor, and it was largely due to his efforts that this project became a reality. He was also responsible for bringing the first steamboat to Beaumont, and was one of the supporters of the movement to build the railroad from Beaumont to Waco. He also promoted and was for years a stockholder of the old Beaumont Telephone Company, and was interested in many other activities, of both a public and an industrial nature. His death occurred at Beaumont the sixth day of November, 1921, following an operation. Although he had lived his three score years he was young in spirit and had the enthusiasm of a young man in all his work for Beaumont. His death cut short a life lived to the full, and the memory of his usefulness, his deeds, his generousness, will be an inspiration to those who follow him to emulate him, and will be a bright page in the history of Beaumont throughout the years.