Downtown Miami

Garth Reeves, the voice of Miami’s black community, to be honored Friday

Garth Reeves, publisher emeritus, of The Miami Times newspaper, in 2011.
Garth Reeves, publisher emeritus, of The Miami Times newspaper, in 2011. Miami Herald File

The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater on Friday will honor a pioneer in publishing, Garth C. Reeves Sr., publisher emeritus of The Miami Times, the newspaper that has chronicled Miami’s black community for nearly a century.

Reeves, 98, will be recognized with a street co-designation ceremony on Northwest Sixth Street between Second and Third avenues, near the theater and Black Archives History & Research Foundation of South Florida. Reeves is a board member of the Black Archives.

“I feel quite honored,” said Reeves, a graduate of Booker T. Washington High and Florida A&M University. “They say, ‘A prophet is supposed to be honored in his hometown.’ I am not a prophet, but good enough. I have enjoyed it 98 years.’’

There was a time, however, when Reeves thought about leaving the Magic City.

“I had some thoughts about it after World War II. Thinking back to when I got home from the service, after 46 months of service. Nothing had changed here in my town. Segregation was still big and when we did pass Brown v. the Board [of Education] … really I was thinking of getting out of here and trying someplace else.”

Besides serving his country during World War II — he served from 1942 to 1946 in both the European and Pacific theaters — Reeves has never held any job outside of the newspaper business. His father, Henry E.S. Reeves, a master printer from the Bahamas, founded the Miami Times on Sept. 1, 1923.

Reeves, who was named publisher and chief executive after his father died in 1970, has witnessed and reported on the concerns of black Miami for decades. A life member of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, Reeves has been instrumental in raising civil rights issues, from city-owned golf courses barring blacks in the 1940s to South Florida beaches banning blacks in the 1940s and ’50s. He was involved in changing both of those governmental policies.

And while Miami has made positive changes, he notes that more work still needs to be done.

“It has improved, but it’s far from really reaching its potential. I always think of Miami as being one of the greatest metropolitan areas in the country. And I think that the buildings that we have done around here are some of the best changes that we have made,’’ he said.

“But we cannot sit back and say that we have it made. I do not think that we will ever have it truly made.”

With the newspaper woven into Miami’s black community for more than 90 years, its impact has spanned generations.

“I remember my grandmother would always get the Miami Times and read it to me when I was younger,” said Kelcee Mitchell, a 23-year-old communications student at Florida International University. “Subconsciously, I think that her reading the paper to me for so many years made me want to major in communications. It was something in all of those years that made me think that I could take this industry by storm, have my own voice and blaze my own trail.”

As far as his legacy is concerned, Reeves can describe it with only one word: change.

“If things were not right, I would speak out,’’ Reeves said. “I do not think there were enough of us speaking out in the early years. There was a lot that should have been said that was not being said.”

IF YOU GO

What: Street Co-Designation Ceremony honoring Garth C. Reeves Sr., publisher emeritus of The Miami Times

When: 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3

Where: Northwest Sixth Street, between Northwest Second and Third avenues

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