Voting rights are once again under attack. It has not been long since people had to pass literacy tests, guess the number of jelly beans in the jar, have someone vouch for them, or pay money to register to vote. I know a person who remembers those times that are not very far in our past. Dr William Ferguson (Fergie) Reid, Sr is that person. Today is his 98th birthday.
I celebrate Dr Fergie Reid, Sr because he has been a mentor and a friend since I first ran for the Virginia House of Delegates in 2013. I remember that first call. He introduced himself and shared some of his wisdom about running for the House of Delegates. You see, Dr Fergie, Sr was the first Black Delegate in the Virginia House of Delegates after Reconstruction. And it was not easy for him. He had to run city-wide in Richmond in the 1960s. Diluting the Black vote was how Black candidates were kept from winning elections. It took him 2 tries to get elected to a seat formerly held by a segregationist.
Dr Fergie Sr knew some folks too. He grew up next door to Maggie L Walker, the first Black woman to charter and be president of a bank. He even met W.E.B. Dubois.
Dr Fergie Sr served in the Navy during the Korean War as a physician. He returned to Richmond and became active in the voting rights movement. In 1956, he co-founded the Richmond Crusade for Voters with Dr. William Thornton, John M. Brooks, Ethel T. Overby and Lola Hamilton. They worked to register voters who were previously kept away from the ballot box by the Harry F Byrd political machine.
In 2015 Dr Fergie Sr was asked what he wanted for his 90th birthday. He said he wanted 90 new voter registrations in every precinct. And hence the 90for90 voter outreach program was born. The organization is now known nationwide as a catalyst to continue registering voters to make our democracy better.
Dr William Ferguson Reid Sr is a living legend. I am proud to know him and call him a friend!
Happy 98th Birthday to my mentor and friend Dr Fergie Reid Sr!!!!