Another Omaha elder leader has passed. The Rev. Everett Reynolds spent the better part of his life fighting the good fight against injustice. The following in memoriam piece I wrote appeared in The Reader (www.thereader.com).
Rev. Everett Reynolds Gave Voice to the Voiceless
©by Leo Adam Biga
Originally published in The Reader (www.thereader.com)
Rev. Everett Reynolds was not from Nebraska but he’s remembered as someone who made a significant mark here.
The St. Louis, Mo. native passed earlier this week in Omaha at age 83.
As a United Methodist minister and community leader he led congregations, worked with parolees, headed the local chapter of the NAACP, founded Cox Cable television channel CTI-22 and advocated for civil rights.
His work followed that of his father and grandfather, who were preachers. But for a long time Reynolds resisted The Call.
As a youth, he moved with his family to Lincoln, Neb., where his father pastored a church. After his father took over at Clair Memorial United Methodist Church in Omaha, Reynolds attended Technical High School.
But school and church were far from his mind. He heeded another calling, music, to become a professional musician in touring dance bands. He sang ballads and blues and played bass violin. He sat in with such legends as Count Basie and Lionel Hampton. He also played for top Omaha Midwest touring bands led by Lloyd Hunter and Earl Graves.
It was a heady time, but as the years went by he got caught up in the night life. Women. Booze. His alcoholism made him a liability. Once, after a week-long bender, he woke up in Houston, unable to remember what happened. Exiled from the band, this Prodigal Son finally returned home.
In a 2004 interview he said after failing to kick his drinking habit, he asked for divine help, and this time he stayed dry. In 1950, he rejoined the church and married. He and his wife Shirley celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary last year. His fall from grace and his subsequent recovery and rebirth, he said, gave his ministry “a message” for anyone straying from The Word. “For I have been there.”
He made his ministry an extension of his work as a Nebraska parole officer. In his duals roles he said he often shared with youth his own experiences.
Reynolds, who held a theology degree and a doctorate, eventually took over his father’s pulpit at Clair Methodist. A consistent theme he delivered as a preacher is that “we’re all created equal in the sight of God. One blood are we.” Black or white, he said, shouldn’t matter. “When we reduce our faith to race, we’ve reduced our faith. Each time we make an advance, it’s for all people, not one.”
“My father was against any kind of inequitable treatment of people, of any people,” says Trip Reynolds, one of the late pastor’s three sons. “That’s his hallmark. Some people talk it — my dad was frequently acknowledged for practicing what he preached.”
Rev. Reynolds went on to pastor Lefler United Methodist Church. During his tenure, he assumed leadership of the Omaha NAACP. It was a tough time for the organization, locally and nationally, with declining memberships and a flagging mission.
As a NAACP spokesman he made his voice heard on hot button incidents like alleged police brutality. He raised awareness. He advocated dialogue. He organized protests. He called press conferences. The cable channel he founded, which originated as Religious Telecast Inc. before changing names to Community Telecast Inc., was created as a forum for minority voices to be heard. Trip Reynolds ran the channel with his father and today is general manager.
The late minister is remembered as the conscience of a community.
“He was very strong and intense in what he believed in,” says Metropolitan Community College liaison Tommie Wilson.”Powerful, intelligent. He knew civil rights backwards and forwards, and he stepped out there and he did it — fighting for justice for everybody. He was a fine man and quite a leader.”
“He took on some really difficult and sometime controversial cases, and he did that knowing what the consequences were and being unafraid to address those consequences,” says Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray. “He also helped create alternative programming and an opportunity for different voices.”
Along the way, Reynolds made clear the NAACP’s watchdog mission is still relevant. “Our struggle continues. People are still hurting because of inequities in such areas as education, employment, voting and the criminal justice system,” he once told a reporter.
When Reynolds stepped down as Omaha NAACP president in 2004, he recommended Tommie Wilson succeed him.
“I feel Dr Reynolds is responsible for me appreciating my history and me wanting to follow those big shoes he wore,” says Wilson. “When he asked me to take over it intensified in me my desire to do all I could to do to make a difference.”
Clair United Methodist Church, 5544 Ames Ave., is hosting a Friday wake service from 6 to 8 p.m., and a Saturday funeral service at noon.
- The Ties that Bind, One Family’s Celebration of Native Omaha Days (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Walking Behind to Freedom, A Musical Theater Examination of Race (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- An Omaha Legacy Ends, Wesley House Shutters after 139 Years – New Use for Site Unknown (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- North Omaha Champion Frank Brown Fights the Good Fight (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
Author-journalist-blogger Leo Adam Biga resides in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. He writes newspaper-magazine stories about people, their passions, and their magnificent obsessions. He's the author of the books "Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film – A Reporter's Perspective 1998-2012," a compilation of his journalism about the acclaimed filmmaker, and "Open Wide" a biograpy of Mark Manhart. Biga co-edited "Memories of the Jewish Midwest: Mom and Pop Grocery Stores." His popular blog, leoadambiga.wordpress.com, is an online gallery of his work.
- UNO makes it public: I’m going to Africa with The Champ as a 2015 winner of the Andy Award for Int... leoadambiga.com/2015/05/21/uno… 6 days ago
- UNO makes it public: I'm going to Africa with The Champ as a 2015 winner of the Andy Award for... tmblr.co/ZLwDem1lK9Aoj 6 days ago
- UNO makes it public: I'm going to Africa with The Champ as a 2015 winner of the Andy Award for International… wp.me/pTQQZ-2MA 6 days ago
My Favorite Tags
My Favorite Categories
Calendar of Blog Posts
Categories from A to Z and # of Posts
- Color-blind love: Five interracial couples share their stories
- Long-Separated Brother and Sister from Puerto Rico Reunited in Omaha
- From the Archives: Peony Park Not Just an Amusement Playground, But a Multi-Use Events Facility
- Brandeis Story: Great Plains Family-Owned Department Store Empire
- John Beasley and Sons Make Acting a Family Thing at the John Beasley Theater & Workshop and Beyond
- A. Marino Grocery Closes: An Omaha Italian Landmark Calls It Quits
- When We Were Kings, A Vintage Pro Wrestling Story
- From the Archives: Monika Kelly Recalls her Late Father, the Beloved Clown and Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Legend, Emmett Kelly Sr.
- The Magical Mystery Tour of Omaha's Magic Theatre, a Megan Terry and Jo Ann Schmidman Production
- Radio One Queen Cathy Hughes Rules By Keeping It Real
- UNO makes it public: I’m going to Africa with The Champ as a 2015 winner of the Andy Award for International Journalism
- Hair stylist-makeup artist Omar Rodriguez views himself as artisan
- Making the Cut: Music video editor Taylor Tracy
- THE GREAT MIGRATION: WHEREVER PEOPLE MOVE, HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
- Civil rights veteran Tommie Wilson still fighting the good fight
- South Omaha Stories on tap for free PlayFest show; Great Plains Theatre Conference’s Neighborhood Tapestries returns to the south side
- Celebrating 90 years, the Omaha Community Playhouse takes seriously its community theater mission
- Paul Williams: Alive and Well, Sober and Serene, Making Memorable Music Again at 74
- Pad man Esau Dieguez gets world champ Terence Crawford ready
- Masterful: Joe Maass leads Omaha South High soccer evolution
- For Omaha Film Festival guru Marc Longbrake, cinema is no passing fancy
- Omaha conquering hero Terence Crawford adds second boxing title to his legend; Going to Africa with The Champ; B & B Boxing Academy builds champions inside and outside the ring
- 451,772 hits