Family and friends expand F.D. Reese Day into a day of service
Published 11:59 am Friday, March 24, 2023
By Travis Gupton
The Selma Times-Journal
In the midst of devastation, there is still a beacon of light on the intersection of Marie Foster and Eugene that reminds the citizens of Selma of a man who loved his community and did everything he could to support his community during his life.
For more than 50 years, F.D. Reese pastored Ebenezer Baptist Church and lived at the two story house that sits at the intersection of Marie Foster and Eugene. Reese’s grandson Alan came to Selma the Friday after the January 12 tornado and said he had a hard time putting into words what he saw.
“I’ve never seen nothing like it. I’ve never seen nothing like that personally,” Reese said in an interview with al.com. “And it really was devastating, man. You know, I’ll never forget when I got to Selma that Friday morning. I saw one individual sitting on a concrete block. And the house was just totally gone,” said Reese. “He had the look of… the look on his face as if ‘there’s no hope.’ And that really hurt my feelings because he lost everything. And that was in Smokey City and it was just heartbreaking.”
F.D. Reese was a proud member of the city of Selma. He was the president of the Teachers Association in the 1960s as well as one of Selma’s first Black city council members. Reese ran for Mayor and lost in 1984, but later served as the campaign manager for Mayor James Perkins, Jr. Later on in life he moved from city government to education where he was principal at Selma High School. Reese died in 2018. During the time of the tornado, the staff and parishioners of Ebenezer Baptist Church did everything they could to help those who were affected by the tornado. They gave out food and water to the community, and to Alan Reese that is exactly how his grandfather would have wanted it.
“There’s something about when you’re going through something, if I can just clean myself up, I’d feel better,” Reese told al.com. “People would have said ‘I know I can go to Ebenezer. Or I know I can go to the church to get some help and some assistance.’ And I know that much… “One thing I know my grandfather would have done is open his home. Open the home, open the church.”
In light of the events of the tornado, the family decided that the third annual F.D. Reese Day would be a day of service to the community. The official observance of F.D. Reese day is March 21, which signifies two important dates in 1965 – the beginning of the first successful voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, and the day the Rev. F.D. Reese accepted his pastoral role as minister of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.
The event was held this year on the 19th with a day of service and a block party for the community. There were giveaways, food, and free tours of the Reese family home.
Alan Reese’s brother Marvin said in a podcast that as a family the best way to honor F.D. Reese was to be servants.
“This is our way of giving back to the community, which we love to do,” Marvin said. “Everyone knows the tornado has affected Selma. So, what we didn’t want to do is be disingenuous and come with a celebration. Because we are a community. And the F.D. Reese Foundation is a community-driven organization.”
Community leader and organizer Hatwatha McGhee summed up how important F.D. Reese was to the community in an interview with al.com before the first F.D. Reese Day in 2021.
“I’ll tell you, and this is just my slogan. ‘If it was not for him, where would we be?’” McGhee said. “Dr. Reese just wasn’t voting rights. Dr. Reese paved the way for our educators. Paved the way so that Black people could have a job at Walmart. Walmart in Selma never hired black people. But Dr. Reese paved that way. For Black police officers and firefighters.”