moment of open discrimination.
“The most prevalent memory of discrimination was when the
legislators were invited to a dinner at a country club in Charlottesville,”
recounted Reid. “I was the only one who was not invited. No Blacks
or Jews could come into the club. I was not invited. I would not have
known that if it had not been in the papers and some of my friendly
delegates asked if I had been invited.When I said no, they boycotted.”
Henderson, however, remembers racial discrimination playing a
larger role in opposition to Reid.
“He showed what a gentleman he was, even in the face of both
overt and covert racism and bigotry. “In his first campaign he won the
primary but some missing paper ballots disappeared. The candidate
Reid had edged out then ran as a write-in and defeated Reid. It was
nothing but race. Through it all, Fergie held his head high, never
stooping to the level of his adversaries. He persevered and ran again
two years later and was elected.”
Reid kept his focus on the cause rather than the effects.
“Well, that wasn’t the first time being discriminated against,”
chuckled Reid. “You realize at that particular time that that was life.
You had to accommodate to it and try to correct it through other
means. The bill for open housing to make sure that banks and other
institutions could not discriminate based on race. These were some of
the things you had to break down.”
One of the most important issues Reid worked to change was
redlining, which is the practice of denying financial services to
individuals in certain areas based on race or ethnicity. In Richmond,
Reid shared that blacks were unable to buy or rent outside a specific
section on the map notated by a red line. Redlining was a form of
institutional racism that perpetuated segregation. Reid was able to
work as a legislator to fight against that form of racism.
Reid is still involved in the Virginia political sphere. In 2009,
he met activist Brenda Hill at a political forum on healthcare, which
led to their ongoing friendship. When Reid’s 90th birthday was
approaching, Hill began considering a celebration.
“We tossed around the idea of a big party, but he shot the idea
down because he doesn’t like a lot of attention,” explained Hill. “He
said the only thing he wanted was for us to register 90 voters in each
precinct, thus the name 90 for 90. A handful of us couldn’t accomplish
that task alone, so I decided to surprise him and make his birthday
gift a 90 for 90 website and facebook so that we could possibly gain
interest in his wish. Fergie, Fergie Jr., and Candy Graham started
calling elected officials and candidates and asking them to sign on to
the project. It quickly expanded outside of VA.”
Over the past two years there have been 633,000 new voter
registrations inVirginia. While statistics directly related to the impact
of 90 for 90 are unavailable, the movement correlates with higher
levels of voter turnout in the state.
In a 2015 interview on “This Week in Richmond”, Reid said that
“the people are the power.” The life, work, and undefeatable optimism
that Reid exhibits prove his commitment to this philosophy.
“Voter registration should be a constant,” said Reid. “That should
be a day-to-day activity. We have to get more people elected to the
lower level offices. The Democratic party is not very well organized.
We have to organize on the city and state level first.”
Reid spoke passionately about the importance of organizing the
party, admonishing that it takes years to make progress and revisiting
the mantra that the people are the power.
“You win by hard work,” said Reid. “Not by money. New
problems arise and you have to be flexible. Take them on. Analyze
them. Find out what the problem is. Come up with a solution. Precinct
organization has not been taken on like it should and as it will be
eventually. If you make one step forward that’s progress. It takes time.
Five or ten years in politics is a short period of time. Looking back
you can see that it passed much faster. I’m not discouraged if change
is not made within ten years. Before I was a little more impatient.”
NRV Putting Passengers
A Broad-based Regional Initiative
For more information, visitwww.nrvpassengerrail.org
• Enabling future economic
• Promoting safer, more efficient
travel on the I-81 corridor
Passenger train travel to the New River Valley,
one of Virginia’s fastest-growing regions
Safe, Efficient and Convenient Passenger Rail for a Fast-Growing Region
RA I L 2 0 2 0
Putting Passengers On Track
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