John David Keene was born in 1930 in Greenwich Village. From an early age, he demonstrated an aptitude for public speaking, delivering his first speech at age twelve while attending Hunter College High School. From there he studied Political Science at Yale University for seven years. He eventually became a congressman of the state of Oklahoma.
At some point, Keene joined the Cyclops, a secret white supremacist organization dedicated to restoring "racial balance" in America. In May 1955 during a white-tie fundraising event at the home of Tulsa sheriff Dale Dixon Crawford he publicly rebuked Hooded Justice for refusing to reveal his identity to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. On June 2, 1955, under the orders of the Cyclops, he gave Sheriff Crawford a George Caitlin replica painting called Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship as a gift and wrote a letter to him explaining that the painting is a reminder for him to never betray his birthright, always remain hopeful even when misfortune arises, and to execute his duties as sheriff of Tulsa P.D. with the talents of their adversaries, and double down on them.
In 1972 he was elected as a Republican senator of New York and in 1976 he allied himself with the New York Police Officer's Union on protesting at the liberties taken by the masked adventurers. In 1977, the following year, he tabled the infamous Keene Act, which banned costumed crime-fighters save those sanctioned by the government.
He later retired and his son, Joe Keene, would author the Defense of Police Act, an emergency Amendment that would protect the identities of law enforcement by making masks a requirement for officers.
In 2019 Keene Sr. along with several high-ranking politicians arrived at Seventh Kalvary headquarters as members of Cyclops to witness the capture and extraction of Dr. Manhattan's powers. As he greeted his son, Joe Keene, with the symbol of the Cyclops, Laurie Blake tells her captor that she would have never pegged Keene Sr. as a secret racist. As the attack at Angela Abar's house commences, Dr. Manhattan is trapped. Joe explains to the gathered audience about Cyclops' original long-term plan of revolting against President Redford by arranging racially-charged events like the White Night, but after discovering Manhattan's presence on Earth they changed their plans to take Manhattan's powers instead. Angela shows up to try to stop the event, but Keene Jr. ignores her warning. He enters the booth, but just as the system is activated, the entire area is teleported to Greenwood by Lady Trieu. Trieu explained that she needed the Seventh Kavalry to capture Manhattan without him detecting her own involvement. Due to the Kavalry's lack of knowledge regarding safety measures, Keene Jr. is liquefied during the process. Trieu proceeds to kill Keene Sr. along with the other Cyclops members on behalf of Will Reeves.
"Give the American people uniforms over costumes."
—Senator John David Keene Sr.
"If they [costumed vigilantes] have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear. So why do they hide?"
—Senator John David Keene Sr.
- Chapter IV: Watchmaker (mentioned)
- Watchmen (film) (viral marketing)
- Watchmen (TV series)
- Other than the "Keene Act", nothing else is mentioned about Keene in the original novel, not even his first name, so no identification is certain. It is possible that Senator Keene is supposed to be based on David Keene, Spiro Agnew's adviser during the Nixon administration.
- Louise Easton wrote an article about him in the Political Gazette.
- The persona of "John David Keene" was invented for the viral marketing surrounding the live action film adaptation of Watchmen.