On Tuesday, October 8, 2019, Montgomery, Alabama decisively elected its first African American Mayor, forty-five year old Steven L. Reed. Reed defeated his opponent, David Woods, garnering a robust sixty-seven percent of the vote. This is not the first time Mayor Elect Reed has made history. He served as the first black probate judge of Montgomery County, Alabama; and we know him well, as he frequently attends NCPJ Conferences and is a distinguished member of the NCPJ.
Born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, Reed served as an aid to the lieutenant governor and was the first probate judge in the state to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
Redirecting the spotlight during his victory speech, Reed explained, “This election has never been about just my ideas. It’s been about all of the hopes and dreams that we have as individuals and collectively in this city . . . and the way we found the opportunity to improve outcomes regardless of neighborhood, regardless of zip code, regardless of anything that may divide us or make us different from one another.”
To understand what makes Mayor Elect Reed’s victory so consequential, consider the history of Montgomery, Alabama, a vibrant and now the largest city in Alabama. Montgomery served as the first capital of the Confederate States of America and racial tensions simmered long after the Civil War, giving rise the civil rights movement. Montgomery, Alabama represented the epicenter of civil rights protests. In 1955, Rosa Parks tipped off the famous bus boycott when she refused the bus driver’s instruction to sit at the back of the bus. Then, in 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. famously led a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama and mightily observed, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
The executive editor of the Montgomery Advertiser soulfully advised, “Do not underestimate what this means to generations of people who fought hard for the man who looks like Reed to hold the city’s highest office. Do not depreciate what it means to the parents of the youth of this city who look like Reed and who now have a man they can hold us as an example.”