Rev. F.D. Reese remembered

Published 10:27 pm Thursday, April 5, 2018

The loss of the Frederick D. Reese, known by many as just F.D., will be felt across the nation.

Reese, who was born Nov. 28, 1929, in Selma, passed away Thursday at the age of 88 in Atlanta.

“I’m terribly sorry for his loss, not just for Selma or the state of Alabama, but the nation,” said Congressman John Lewis, who knew Reese well from his time in Selma during the voting rights movement.

“I first met the Rev. Reese in 1963 on my first trip to Selma when I became the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was one of the leaders of the local movement and became more of a leader during the whole effort to gain the [right to] vote in Selma. He was highly respected, and he welcomed us into Selma in our efforts to help the local movement.”

It was the work of men like Reese and Lewis, which led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The Rev. Reese’s involvement made it possible. He helped create the climate for the Voting Rights Act,” Lewis said. “People all over America and many people around the world knew him because he stood out as this nice, upright man. He didn’t make a lot of noise. He just did what he felt was his calling. He was consistent and persistent.”

Reese was quiet, but bold, and that’s what made him such a great leader to many.

“When he said something, people listened,” Lewis recalled. “They considered his position and his advice and took it very seriously.”

Lewis will miss seeing Reese and marching alongside him when he visits Selma each year to commemorate the anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

“I will miss him,” Lewis said. “I only missed one year not coming to Selma in 53 years, and I’ve seen him there walking or marching on the front line the same way he did during the sixties leading up to Bloody Sunday.”

People look up to Reese, and many consider him to be a giant, but he was never one to brag about what he did, which is what his grandson Alan Reese has always admired about his grandfather.

“He did not need any credit. He was a person that was happy with the outcome. Even though we as grandkids would say what our grandfather’s legacy is, he was a man that did not need any credit,” Alan said. “He just wanted to make sure that we had the right to vote, that we could go where we wanted to go and do the things we wanted to do.”

Another grandson, Marvin Reese, always admired his faith in God. Reese served as pastor at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Selma for more than half a century.

“He was a strong man, and his faith in God was very admirable,” Marvin said. “He would always tell us to stand no matter what comes your way, just stand and keep the faith as long as it’s right and push forward.”

Reese was also known as a kind, loving man, especially to his wife of 64 years, Alline.

“He was always a loving person, always loving and caring. He was always willing to do what he could for others, always,” she said.

He was also strong.

“He did what was right for the people, and he stood tall. He did what was always right and was always willing,” Alline said. “He never took a backseat on anything. He stood against all the tribulations and trials that came against him. He wasn’t afraid.”

Reese not only touched lives as a civil rights leader, but he also influenced and inspired young minds as an educator. He was a school teacher for 53 years.

“It is because of him that I am able to serve the incredible people of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell Thursday in a statement to the Times-Journal.

“He was my principal in Selma, and he always reminded me that anything was possible. One of my greatest moments as a member of Congress was to present Dr. Reese with the gold medal at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony that honored foot soldiers of the 1965 voting rights marches.”

Sewell called Reese an American hero whose work as an educator, pastor and civil rights activist will never be forgotten.

“At this moment, my small words of gratitude and appreciation for this civil rights giant seem woefully inadequate,” Sewell said. “He was a brilliant and beautiful soul who made this world a brighter place and he will be dearly missed.”

Funeral arrangements have not been finalized for Reese, but according to family, services are expected to be held in Selma.