Civil Rights luminary Dr. F.D. Reese stands near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of the “Bloody Sunday” conflict in Selma, Alabama.  (Photo courtesy of Adam Nadel)
Civil Rights luminary Dr. F.D. Reese stands near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of the “Bloody Sunday” conflict in Selma, Alabama. (Photo courtesy of Adam Nadel)
“One day, when the glory comes
it will be ours, it will be ours
Oh, one day, when the war is won
We will be sure, we will be here sure
Oh, glory, glory.” – John Legend’s “Glory” 

Those lyrics from the them to the powerful film “Selma” encapsulate the ongoing struggle for civil rights in the United States.

With the events at Selma once again front and center in the national consciousness, it is an ideal time to highlight an individual who was central to the episode, and who also happens to have a strong tie to the Kokomo Community.

Reverend Dr. Fredrick Douglass Reese is that individual.

In 1964, as president of the Dallas County Voters League, Reese signed a letter that would dramatically alter the civil rights landscape. Registrars in Dallas County were making it extremely difficult for blacks to become registered voters. Only 300 of the over 20,000 black residents were registered, so Reese sent out a letter inviting Dr. Martin Luther King and  his Southern Christian Leadership Conference to come to Selma and lead a voting rights protest.

King and his staff arrived in Selma on Jan. 2, 1965, and began demonstrations that would last for two months. The events came to a terrible climax on “Bloody Sunday,” when Alabama state troopers beat and tear-gassed 600 peaceful marchers on a town bridge.

The events angered the nation and brought into focus the need for change. Two weeks later on the march to Montgomery, Alabama, Reese walked in the front row with Dr. King and the civil rights tide was forever shifted.

Though he is not as high profile as other civil rights heroes, much of that is by design.

“I’ve never sought personal recognition and have always asked the Lord to decide which way to go,” he said Thursday during an interview last year from his office at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.

His comparably low profile has not stopped Reese from having a profound influence on others, however. One such person is Pastor L.E. Anderson of Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church in Kokomo.

Pastor Anderson moved to Selma in 1992 to attend Selma University.  He united with the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Dr. Reese.  It was at Ebenezer that Pastor Anderson was ordained at Ebenezer and became Assistant Pastor under Reese.

Pastor Anderson honored his mentor by naming the Christian school he founded in 2008 at Mt. Pisgah the F.D. Reese Christian Academy. The stated mission of the academy is to provide “a Christ-centered education that nurtures individual growth, instills discipline and respect for authority. We expose students to the contributions of people of color in history and develop Christian character according to the Word of God.”

When Reese visited Mt. Pisgah and spoke to the congregation several years ago, Pastor Anderson introduced him saying, “This man is not just part of black history; he is part of American history.”

However, Anderson believes it is extremely important that the academy named for Reese does its part to educate the many African-American students about their heritage, which has often been overlooked.

Through the school, Anderson aims to give the students “a true sense of blacks in history as a part of the curriculum.”

“For students at the F.D. Reese Christian Academy, Black History month is every month, as it should be,” he noted.

The F.D. Reese Academy can be contacted by calling 765.459.5201 or at www.FDRCA.org.