Keith was born February 5, 1924, in Mankato, Minnesota where he grew up. He served in the U.S. Army as a rifleman in Europe during World War II. For bravery during the Battle of the Bulge and other operations he earned the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Combat Infantry badge.
In 1948 he received a B.S. in Geology from the South Dakota School of Mines and an M.S. in Geology from the University of Arizona in 1952. From 1952 to 1966, he was employed as an exploration geologist by several Western mining companies, including Phelps Dodge Corp., American Smelting and Refining Co., Southern Pacific Co., and Standard Slag, Co.
In 1954, Keith married Ruth Schwartz in Tucson, AZ, his beloved wife and companion of 52 years. They moved to Reno in 1961.
From 1966 to 1986, he was employed as an industrial-minerals geologist by the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology at the University of Nevada. He was named Emeritus Professor in 1986. He was recognized as a Distinguished Member of the Society of Mining Engineers (SME) in 1993 and Legion of Honor Member of AIME in 1996. In 1992 he received the Hardinge Award, the top honor given by the Industrial Minerals Division of SME, and he was elected to lifetime honorary membership in GSN.
He was also a member of the Society of Economic Geologists and the Clay Minerals Society.
During his long career he authored or co-authored more than 60 technical publications on industrial minerals and geology. He was universally considered the foremost expert on Industrial Minerals in the state of Nevada. His range of expertise extended from abrasives to zeolites. Some of his more notable publications included those on Nevada barite, gypsum, clays, evaporates and brines, talc and fluorspar. He was also noted as the author of Mining Claim Procedures for Nevada Prospectors and Miners. He was an Associate Editor for the recently completed 7th Edition of SME’s Industrial Minerals & Rocks.
After his retirement, Keith also was an active docent at the Plumas Eureka State Park in Johnsville, CA where he also contributed many hours mapping and writing reports on the history, geology and mining aspects of the region.