Major Bob Keene:
Kentucky Military Institute & the Greenbrier Military School Connection
Among my GMS memories are the hours spent in the, always entertaining, Public Speaking/Speech classes taught by the late, beloved Major Bob Keene. Maj. Keene was affectionately referred to, by many of us scurrilous, misguided cadets, as “B.S. Bob” because of his many “engaging” chronicles. Classes always began with the Major asking a cadet to come to the podium and present a speech, based on a Reader’s Digest article, read the night before.
Invariably, at some point during each class, Major Keene would interrupt the speaker with his patented “That reminds me of the time....”, quickly digressing into a soliloquy based on a “flashback” from the good Major’s earlier days.
A few examples of these chronicles were: “The Louisville Flood of 1937” when he reputedly cruised through the flooded streets of Louisville, Ky. in a PT Boat with the Kentucky National Guard; or, the one about “The Great Okeechobee Hurricane” disaster of the late 1920’s in which the Major recounted a friend’s recollection having visited the area around the destroyed Hoover Dike in the days following the storm, which killed over 2,000 laborers and farm families; and, a particularly interesting story, more to the point of this writing, a “moving account” from his days, during the late 1920’s, at KMI (Kentucky Military Institute), during which time he befriended a young KMI cadet named Victor Mature. Victor, the son of an Italian immigrant, was being mistreated by other cadets due to his Italian, immigrant heritage. As you will surely recall, Victor Mature later became a famous Hollywood actor, who starred in such movies as “The Robe”, “Demetrius and the Gladiators”, “Samson and Delilah” and many others.
Recently I checked the bio on Victor Mature and found that he had, in fact, at-
tended KMI, from 1928-29, along with another actor, Jim Backus of “Mr. Magoo” and “Gillingan’s Island” fame. After reading the bio, I emailed the KMI Alumni Association
asking if they had any information about a former KMI cadet or teacher with the name, Bob Keene. I received responses from a couple of former KMI alumni, corroborating the Major’s story, told to us back in that 1965 GMS classroom.
So, to the late Major Bob Keene, I hope he will “look down” and except my apol-ogy for having referred, to him, in absentia, of course, as “B.S. Bob”; and, I know, now, that all his other fascin-ating accounts were, I’m absolutely, positively, TRUE, as well. And I thoroughly enjoyed everyone one of those stories and the time spent in his class.
Check out the following website for other interesting and famous KMI Alumni.
I’m indebted to former KMI cadets, Tommy Young and Jim Flora for responding to my emails and providing the history on Maj. Bob Keene’s early days at KMI.
KMI History Project
P.O. Box 338
Mt. Carmel, IL 62863
1930 Photo of Cadets including Jim Backus & Victor Mature
Bob Keene at KMI info emailed by former KMI cadet Tommy Young.:
Information on Bob Keene is limited - he entered KMI as a cadet in Sept 1925 and graduated in June 1926. Records indicate that he remained at KMI for a few years - Victure Mature entered KMI in Sept 1928. I have a note that Keene was pictured in the 1928-29 yearbook - that would indicate that they were there at the sametime. I quess it is possible that he taught Mature while he was a cadet - Mature was only there one year.
KMI President formerly at GMS: Information provided by KMI alumnus, Tommy Young.
Incidentially - the president of KMI and the Commandant had both been on the faculty at Greenbrier before being KMI in the 1920s. Four members of the faculty made the move to Lyndon, Ky. in 1925-1926. The people who made the move From Greenbrier were Charles B. Richmond, Charles E. Hodgin, Samuel Marshall, and Willis Groseclose. KMI was purchased in 1924 by Richmond, Hodgin and Marshall. Marshall would sell his interest at some point but all four men remained connected to the school until the late 1960s.
Victor Mature at KMI:
Victure Mature entered KMI in Sept 1928 and Mature was only there one year..
Jim Backus at KMI:
His bio indicates he attended KMI in the late 1920’s and a photo of KMI cadets includes
both Victor Mature and Jim Backus.
Thank’s, Herb, for all you do for the GMS Alumni Association.