Former Westchester County Legislator Herman Keith Passes Away at 88

Date:

With profound sorrow and deep respect, we announce the passing of the Honorable Herman Keith, former County Legislator and trailblazer, on June 22, 2024. At the age of 88, Mr. Keith’s courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease came to an end, leaving our community bereft of a true pioneer and champion of justice.

The Honorable Herman Keith’s legacy as Westchester’s first African-American County Legislator cannot be overstated. In an era fraught with challenges, he shouldered the immense responsibility of breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations of Black leaders in local politics. His unwavering dedication and perseverance in the face of adversity opened doors that had long been closed, forever changing our county’s public service landscape.

Mr. Keith’s life was a testament to resilience’s power and representation’s importance. His groundbreaking election and subsequent years of service not only transformed the political arena in Westchester but also inspired countless individuals to pursue careers in public service. The sacrifices he made, the challenges he overcame, and the progress he championed have left an indelible mark on our community’s history.

A pillar of strength in Westchester County and his beloved Yonkers, the Honorable Herman Keith leaves behind a legacy that transcends his years in office. His tireless advocacy, dedicated public service, and commitment to equality have set a standard of excellence that will continue to guide and inspire for generations to come.

To honor this remarkable leader and pay our respects, a memorial service will be held on July 20 at 11 am at Community Baptist Church, 160 North Broadway, Yonkers, NY. Let us come together to celebrate the life and achievements of a man who reshaped our community and whose influence will be felt for years.

From Military Service to Community Leadership

Originally from Alabama, Keith was a United States Army veteran who attained the rank of 1st Lieutenant. After relocating to Yonkers, he worked as an Engineer for Perkin Elmer Optical Company and later as an Underwater Research Scientist at Columbia University. Keith’s career later shifted towards community development, where he managed programs for the Yonkers Community Development Agency and the Haitian Refugee Assistance Program.

Pioneering Civil Rights Advocate

As president of the Yonkers Branch of the NAACP, Keith led a landmark desegregation lawsuit against the City of Yonkers. His efforts were instrumental in establishing equal access to quality integrated education and fair housing opportunities for all residents.

In 1983, Keith made history as the first African-American elected to the Westchester County Board of Legislators. During his 12-year tenure, he served as Minority Whip and Minority Leader, earning respect from colleagues and constituents alike for his open-mindedness and commitment to public service.

Keith’s legislative achievements were numerous, including the South Africa Divestment Bill, the Banks Community Reinvestment Act, Youth Employment Job Training Programs, Health Care Initiatives, the Invest in Kids Program, and JobSTAR.

Champion for Youth and Community Development

Beyond his political career, Keith was a passionate advocate for the positive development of young African-American males. He frequently spoke at schools, civic organizations, and religious institutions, promoting self-worth and positive self-image.

In his later years, Keith founded Hudson River Consulting Group, providing valuable consulting services in development and construction. His expertise and extensive network proved invaluable to businesses seeking funding, grants, and loans.

A Lasting Legacy

Keith is survived by his wife, Gail Adams, and five children. His community involvement extended to numerous boards and committees, including the Nepperhan Community Center, Black Democrats of Westchester, and the Yonkers Community Action Program.

His influence reached national media, with appearances on the Donahue Show, McNeil Lehrer Newshour, and Nightline. Keith also served as a consultant for various projects, including the City of Yonkers Police & Firefighter Recruitment Program and the Westchester County Waterfront study.

The Honorable Herman Keith’s passing closes a transformative chapter in Westchester County’s history. His enduring legacy shines brightest through the lives of young people, especially young Black men, for whom he was a tireless advocate and inspiration. Keith personified Black excellence – intelligent, eloquent, and influential in both appearance and speech. His commanding presence in positions of power and authority set a powerful example for young Black men of my era, offering a vivid illustration of what they could aspire to become. Keith’s life and career provided a crucial model of success and leadership at a time when such examples were sorely needed.

Mr. Keith’s unwavering dedication to uplifting youth was the cornerstone of his public service. He recognized that the future of our community rested in the hands of its young people, and he devoted himself to ensuring they had the tools, opportunities, and confidence to succeed. His frequent appearances at schools, civic organizations, and religious institutions were not mere formalities but passionate calls to action, encouraging young Black men to embrace their self-worth and envision a future without limits.

Through his groundbreaking achievements as the first African-American County Legislator, Mr. Keith didn’t just open doors—he built a bridge for future generations to cross. His courage in facing and overcoming systemic barriers served as a living example to young Black men that they too could aspire to positions of leadership and influence..

Though he may no longer walk among us, the Honorable Herman Keith’s spirit of service, his unyielding commitment to equality, and his fierce advocacy for youth empowerment endure. His life stands as a testament to what can be achieved through perseverance, integrity, and a dedication to community. For generations to come, young people in Westchester County, especially young Black men, will find in Mr. Keith’s story the inspiration to pursue their dreams, challenge injustice, and work tirelessly for the betterment of their communities.

Black Westchester celebrates the life & legacy of the Honorable Herman Keith of Episode 401 of the People Before Politics Radio Show, Sunday, July 13th. He was a true Black Westchester Legend!

DAMON K JONES
DAMON K JONEShttps://damonkjones.com
A multifaceted personality, Damon is an activist, author, and the force behind Black Westchester Magazine, a notable Black-owned newspaper based in Westchester County, New York. With a wide array of expertise, he wears many hats, including that of a Spiritual Life Coach, Couples and Family Therapy Coach, and Holistic Health Practitioner. He is well-versed in Mental Health First Aid, Dietary and Nutritional Counseling, and has significant insights as a Vegan and Vegetarian Nutrition Life Coach. Not just limited to the world of holistic health and activism, Damon brings with him a rich 32-year experience as a Law Enforcement Practitioner and stands as the New York Representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this amazing article on the life and dedication of my father Herman Keith. I am still trying to process the thoughts of his passing, but this made me also realize the foundations that my father left behind will be remembered always.

    Sincerely,
    Kim Keith-Byrd

  2. Carolyn S. Keith 1955-W.A. State College
    You were always great!

    I Love You, Always
    Carolyn

    P.S, See you when “The Mornin’ Comes,”

    Mother of your first three kids,
    Kim, Michael (Kareem) & Mark

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