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Keith Tate – A Shining Star in Greater Chatham

Luke 12:48 discusses that we have been entrusted with certain God-given treasures, and faithfulness requires that we manage those treasures wisely and unselfishly. If we are blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, it is expected that we use these well to glorify God and to benefit others. To whom much is given, much is required. The life of Keith Ovid Tate embodied this scripture to the fullest. Keith Tate was born the eldest of three children on April 14, 1949 to the union of Elwin Tate and Ola M. Dixon.

The Tate family moved to the Chatham community in 1955. During that year a bond was formed for the betterment of the community; Elwin Tate, Washington Birney and William Cousins founded the Chatham and Avalon Park Community Council (CAPCC). Together with other community residents, they sought to achieve excellence in educational opportunities, business development, quality housing and crime reduction. Black people were starting to move to Chatham and surrounding areas and this group was totally committed to bring about a better way of life for its residents. CAPCC is a volunteer organization serving the residents in the boundaries of 75th to 87th and from Cottage Grove to the Dan Ryan. In 1983, Elwin Tate served as the Executive Vice President and in 1987, he served as the President. Mary Ellen Drake (former CAPCC President), recalls how her father (a council participant) and Elder Tate would bring Keith and her to the meetings on the second Monday of each month. A sense of responsibility for the community was nurtured in them at an early age.

Keith was a graduate of St. Dorothy Elementary School and Hales Franciscan High School. He matriculated at Colorado State University obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting. He married Shirley Brown Tate and raised two sons, Marcus Tate and Rawling Brown. He served over 25 years as a Data Center Manager for the University of Illinois Medical Center. He also served as a Manager of Private Practice at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois and a Director of Patient Accounts at St. Mary Medical Center in Gary, Indiana.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Keith served as the Executive Vice President and President of CAPCC for over 20 years. James Holloway (best friend from grammar school) describes Keith as a man of his word, a deeply caring individual and a great friend. While taking care of the needs of his community, he retired early to be a tireless caregiver for his parents and wife. He was the go-to person in the Chatham community. If you needed a barber, call Keith. If you wanted to know about an upcoming event, call Keith. If you needed to know the location of the nearest food bank, call Keith. He was dedicated and compassionate.

During Keith’s administration at the CAPCC, Joe Moore (fellow community activist) recalls the “Arms around Chatham” initiative in 1987. Under the leadership of Camilla Render, several hundred of residents met at Cole Park to advocate for neighborhood vitality. They raised money to buy two vacant lots in the community to be used for community development and held hands around the Chatham community boundaries. Mayor Harold Washington joined the group and the event was featured on “60 Minutes”.

As a revered leader and community advocate, Keith and CAPCC fought along with Alderman Bobby Rush to bring businesses such as Target, Nike and Chase Bank to the community. According to the CAPCC Executive Vice President and Economic Development Chair at the time, Mary Ellen Drake, “not only did we bring jobs to the community, we petitioned these companies to employ African Americans in management positions.”  Chase’s branch manager, James Gilliam, is African American. CAPCC also worked with Donzell and Alisa Starks to bring Black owned movie theaters (ICE Theatre) to inner city neighborhoods like Chatham. And one of the most powerful financial developments that Keith and Drake helped them implement during their administration involved an investor buyback deal with Home Depot. About 40 Chatham and West Chatham investors bought the land where Home Depot now sits and leased it to the corporation. Local investors still control this vital land resource and continue to receive dividends. Keith was appalled at Target’s November 2018 decision to leave Chatham and Morgan Park and felt that they are disrespecting the community and taking away jobs.

Keith recruited younger people to pass on the torch, he worked to increase property values, and took actions to get better jobs, restaurants and schools in the community. He was diplomatic and had a fair demeanor with everyone from the bank president to the bus driver to the unemployed mother to the school teacher. Milas Armour, III (best friend of 55 years and best man at his wedding) described Keith as an “activist for all! …treating everyone with dignity and always making time for those in need. A loving and kind-hearted man.” Keith was elected as the President Emeritus by the Board of Directors of CAPCC in 2015 and was the longest serving President of all the CAPCC Presidents!

Drake and Armour both mentioned that Keith “fought for our schools, churches and neighborhoods!” He was active at his church, St. Dorothy and often helped needy families with boxes of food. He was committed to his alma mater, Hales Franciscan High School, where he worked on alumni fundraisers and scholarship events. Armour relayed that he was the glue that kept his pack of friends together. If one of them lost a family member, Keith would be right there with a fish or chicken dish.

In June 2016, the Greater Chatham Initiative (GCI) was launched as a registered 501(c)(3) organization. Funded by several corporations, this commission serves to combat rising crime and quality of life issues, to increase economic and business development and to serve the needs of the following communities: Grand Crossing, Chatham, Auburn Gresham, and Avalon Park. Keith served as a board member of GCI until his untimely death.

GCI Board Member Photo
KEITH TATE WAS an active Greater Chatham Initiative (GCI) Board Member. Tate is photographed at the Greater Chatham Initiative 2018 Greater Chatham Strong Giving Tuesday Gala. The GCI Board Members (L to R), Front Row; Keith Tate, Michael Bennett, Allison Porter-Bell, Alicia Spears (Board President), Nedra Sims Fears (Executive Director), and Kristin Faust. Back Row: Joe Moore, Carlos Nelson, Eiran Feldman, Jahmal Cole. (Photographer Company: Goodlife Media Productions)

Kindly referred to as the Mayor of Chatham, Keith Tate was called to our Lord, on December 17, 2018. Just four short months after his wife passed away. Long-time friends, Chatham community residents and the city of Chicago “thank God for the life and legacy of one who taught us all how to love and give unconditionally.”

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