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Dr. William Ferguson Reid

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Dr. William Ferguson Reid

Republished from 2003 profilesBY MICHAEL PAUL WILLIAMSTimes Dispatch Staff WriterDr. William Ferguson Reid was at the vanguard of two pivotal events in the re-emergence of black political power in Virginia.Reid, a surgeon, co-founded the Richmond Crusade for Voters in 1956 to register and mobilize black voters during Massive Resistance.Continued below

Dr. William Ferguson Reid was at the vanguard of two pivotal events in the re-emergence of black political power in Virginia.

Reid, a surgeon, co-founded the Richmond Crusade for Voters in 1956 to register and mobilize black voters during Massive Resistance.

A dozen years later, Reid would reap the fruits of the seeds planted by the Crusade, becoming the first black member of the Virginia General Assembly since Reconstruction. Reid's support cut across racial lines as he garnered the most votes among the winners on the Democratic ticket.

"I was glad to be elected, but I felt I was more of a symbol," Reid said in 1990. "We did it with much determination and got enough support to break the barrier."

He said the election was good for whites as well as blacks because it gave whites an opportunity to be exposed to blacks who could compete with them.

"A lot of whites," he said, "had not worked with blacks as equals."

Reid represented Richmond and Henrico County in the House of Delegates from 1968 to 1973. He was unseated by the late Howard H. Carwile.

"Fergie" Reid was born in Richmond on March 18, 1925. He graduated from Armstrong High School in 1941 and received his bachelor's degree from Virginia Union University in 1946.

He earned his medical degree from Howard University and served his internship and residency in St. Louis. Later, he became a lieutenant in the Navy. He served with the 1st Marine Division in Korea and at the Bethesda (Md.) Naval Hospital.

Returning to Richmond, he became active in civic and professional affairs.

This was an era of poll taxes, literacy tests and other mechanisms to weaken black political clout. The entrenched Byrd political machine stood in defiance of change.

Reid, John Mitchell Brooks and Dr. William S. Thornton began meeting daily at the old Slaughter's Hotel, a popular segregation-era gathering place for black Richmonders in Jackson Ward. The outgrowth of these strategy sessions was the Crusade.

"It was obvious that the only way to get things changed was to put politicians in there who would obey the laws," Dr. Reid said in a 1991 interview.

The Crusade helped guide a black political maturation that culminated with the election of the first black majority on Richmond City Council, which picked Henry L. Marsh III as the city's first black mayor in 1977.

That same year, surgeon Reid left the area to join the Foreign Service, which took him to such posts as Bogota, Colombia; La Paz, Bolivia; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; the Philippines; and Ivory Coast.

Now retired from the service, he maintains a home in western Henrico but lives in Rockville, Md., with his wife, Jacqueline. He works in Bethesda as a medical review officer.

Their three children have also left the area. The oldest daughter, Hollis, is a dermatologist in Maryland; another daughter, Kelly, is a psychiatrist in New Jersey. Son Fergie practices medicine in Los Angeles.

Reid still has politics in his blood.

"I kind of work on the fringes now," he said.

"I have a lot of ideas about different things. Sometimes I talk to some candidates, to give them some advice."

Then he chuckled and added, "They don't always listen."

"We were mainly interested in breaking down the barriers," he said. "You need a new set of goals for this century."

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