Dr. Joe Louis Reed honored in Lanett

Published 9:36 am Wednesday, February 22, 2023

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LANETT — Monday was “Dr. Joe Louis Reed Day” in Lanett, and the well-known Civil Rights activist, politician and educator was in town to receive a proclamation and plaque from Mayor Jamie Heard and members of the city council.

It was a special event during Black History Month. Never at a loss for words, Dr. Reed told the mayor and council that he very much appreciated being recognized in Lanett, and that he had known a number of fellow Alabama State University alumni he’d worked with over the years who were from Lanett and the surrounding area. 

They included former ASU board members the late Ross Dunn and the late Oscar Crawley. Reed said he’d also thought a lot of the late Elizabeth Lyons, a former member of the Valley City Council.

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Reed is very proud of being from rural Conecuh County, where they make the sausage. 

“We lived seven miles from the post office,” he said.

When asked if he was named for the Alabama-born boxer, Reed said he was actually named for a couple of his uncles, but he was proud of the association. Joe Louis was world famous when Reed was born in 1938.

Reed said it was on his bucket list to come to the Chambers County Courthouse in LaFayette to see the much-talked-about statue of Joe Louis.

The mayor’s proclamation notes that Dr. Reed currently serves as vice-chair of minority affairs for the Alabama Democratic Party and has been chair of the Alabama Democratic Conference since 1979. 

“He also served as president of the Alabama State Teachers Association prior to its merger with the Alabama Education Association (AEA) in 1969,” the proclamation reads, “and then served as associate executive secretary from 1969 until retiring from the AEA in 2011.”

He and Paul Hubbert were giants in Alabama public education in the 42 years they worked together. Reed spoke glowingly of Hubbert. 

“He’s gone, but his work continues,” he said.

Reed graduated from the Conecuh County Training School in the 1950s and served in the newly-integrated U.S. Army, serving with a MASH unit in the Korean War. When he returned to his home state, he attended Alabama State, where he was student body president. 

On Feb. 25, 1960, he took part in a lunch counter sit-in in Montgomery County. He was placed on probation before his eventual graduation from Alabama State.

In 1975, Reed won a seat on the newly-formed Montgomery City Council, representing District 3. He was one of the first four African-American officeholders in the state capital since the Reconstruction era. He served as chairman of the Alabama State University Board of Trustees from 1990 until 2008.

Reed’s son Steven is the current mayor of Montgomery. 

He celebrated his 49th birthday on Monday. Pop was a little late getting to the party. He was driven there following the council meeting.

Reed told the crowd gathered inside the council chamber that he didn’t want anyone to forget what the Alabama Democratic Conference had done for the state. 

“It paved the way for so much progress,” he said. “We appreciate some of our White elected officials helping us fix things, too. Today is my son’s birthday, but I wanted to come here to receive this award. Thank you. Thank you, Thank you.”

In addition to the mayor’s proclamation and plaque, Reed also received a proclamation from the local chapter of Alabama A&M University. 

It was signed by chapter president Janice Cumberlander and presented by chapter member Mary A. Banks.