March 15 will be F.D. Reese Day in Selma.
The Selma City Council passed a resolution Tuesday naming March 15 in memory of the civil rights leader, educator and pastor. Reese is known as one of the Courageous Eight who invited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Selma to assist with voting rights for African Americans. That eventually led to the Bloody Sunday march, which helped redefine the political landscape of the nation.
Mayor James Perkins Jr. and several members of the city council recalled their personal connections with the civil rights icon.
“I’m getting emotional,” Perkins said. “The two greatest influences in my life were James Perkins Sr. and F.D. Reese. I can’t begin to describe his level of influence.”
When the council unanimously approved the resolution, Perkins said, “This is way overdue. I’ll be as proud as a peacock when I sign this resolution.”
City Council President Warren “Billy” Young said that his family “stood with him and by” Reese during his struggle for social justice, and Reese was his high school principal.
A website devoted to Reese’s book “Selma’s Self Sacrifice” describes Reese as a major factor in redefining the political landscape of the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. The site lists some of Reese’s accomplishments:
- He desegregated a local doctor’s reception area by refusing to wait in a small area designated “blacks only.”
- He played a significant role in the desegregation of the local teachers’ association by helping to merge the black and white organizations.
- He was the first man to advocate and obtain commitments for summer jobs for black youth from the city of Selma and Dallas County.
- He played a significant role in the establishment of an Economic Opportunity Agency in Dallas County and pushed for the board of directors to be half white and half black.
- He organized and led protests against a popular store in Selma for their discriminatory policies in hiring, promoting and the treatment of their African American employees. This led to a meeting with Vice President and an eventual incorporation of a fair non-discriminatory policies. The multi-billion-dollar company continues to use a model of this policy today.
- He stood up for improved housing conditions for all.
- He was one of the first African Americans to run for public office in Dallas County.
“As much as I enjoyed the movie ‘Selma,’ I think it was a shortfall to tell the story and not mention F.D. Reese,” Perkins said.
Reese was pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church for over 50 years. He graduated from Alabama State University, Livingston University (now the University of West Alabama) and Selma University.