James Henry Keys was born on May 6, 1925 in Plant city, Florida. He was the sixth child and only son of Reverend James Henry Keys, Sr. and Clarissa Childs Keys. He attended primary and elementary grade schools in Clearwater, Florida and subsequently graduated from Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, Florida. While attending Gibbs High School, James sang in the choir as a leading tenor and was an outstanding quarterback for the football team. Upon graduating from high school with honors in 1943, he was inducted into the United States Air Force where he served from 1943 to 1946. After serving in the Air Force Reserve for two years, he reenlisted in the United States Army from 1948 to 1952. James was honorably discharged from both segments of the military at the rank of sergeant.
After serving his country, James enrolled at Bethune-Cookman College in 1952. While there, he was not only an outstanding scholar, but he sang in the noted Concert Chorale under the direction of Stanly D. Kirton of Boston. During his senior year, he was president of the Student Government Association which afforded him the honor of being a pallbearer for the late Dr. Mary McLeod was alone, founder of Bethune-Cookman College. While at Bethune-Cookman College, James was inducted into the Gamma Theta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. in 1953. Brother Keys loved his fraternity, was a Life Member, and was an active member for the duration of his life. He has held numerous offices for the Fraternity and served the Alumni Chapters of Daytona Beach and Miami. He ended his service as Chaplain of the Orlando (FL) Alumni Chapter.
James graduated from Bethune-Cookman College earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Education with Honors. He received his Master of Arts degree in Supervision/Administration from Stetson University and his Doctor of Education in Educational Administration from the University of Miami.
Dr. Keys was a distinguished educator and over the course of his career he has received countless awards and citations. His career included serving as both a teacher and administrator for Volusia County Public Schools and Dade County Public Schools and as the Executive Director for the Volusia County Community Action Agency. He worked diligently and faithfully for Bethune-Cookman College as Director of Student Personnel Services, Executive Director for the National Alumni Association, and Academic Dean. As a result of his service to Bethune-Cookman College, the Alumni Association awarded Dr. Keys the Alumni Distinguished Service Award and the Shafts of Light Award, which is the highest award to be bestowed upon an Alumnus.
Dr. Keys loved and served the Lord and was a faithful member of the Episcopal Church and served in many capacities including Senior Warden and Deacon. He served with a loyalty, love, and honor to St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, Church of the Incarnation in Miami, Florida, and St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Orlando, Florida.
Dr. Keys had a thirst for learning and enjoyed reading, singing, public speaking, writing and reciting poetry, sports, crossword puzzles (in pen), and traveling. Dr. Keys is survived by his loving and devoted wife of 56 years, Silhouette Elsa Ingraham Keys, daughters Tonya Keys-Askew (Nathaniel) and Terry Keys-Broadnax (Anthony), granddaughters Tonaysha and Natasha Askew, sister Mae Ollie Smith (George), sister-in-laws Alice Rolle, Jean McDowell, Wanda Ingraham, and Brenda Ingraham, and a host of cousins, nieces, and nephews.
When all our student days are done and we from school must go, Still we will honor, love and sing thy praises o’er and o’er,
We’ll live for thee, we’ll strive for thee, we’ll all thy ways adore; We’ll long for thee and toil until we reach the Golden Shore,
We’ll long for thee and toil until we reach the Golden Shore.
– Kappa Alpha Psi Hymn (3rd Verse)