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National

Garth Reeves, A Leader In The Black Press And Civil Rights, Dies At 100

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Garth Reeves Sr. died this week. He was 100 years old and spent his life fighting racism with his journalism. Garth Reeves was owner and publisher of The Miami Times, the newspaper started by his father. The Times earned a reputation as the voice of black Miami and was recognized in 2011 as the top black newspaper in the country by the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

Mohamed Hamaludin is former managing editor of The Miami Times and joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

MOHAMED HAMALUDIN: Thank you for having me, Scott.

SIMON: Miami is among those many American cities that have been the scene of civil unrest at one time or another over the past few decades. What are some of the stories that you remember that Garth Reeves and his newspaper were able to do?

HAMALUDIN: Well, the stories had to do basically with politics and relationship between the police and the community. A lot of the folks of the police were white, and the African American community did not think that the officers, long before you had Black Lives Matter, that they had any regard for the lives of African Americans in Miami.

McDuffie was the name of an insurance salesman. He was riding his motorcycle, and he passed some cops. And he gave them the finger. And those cops chased him down, stopped him and beat him to death. They were charged. The case was taken out of Miami. I think it was tried before an all-white jury, and they were found not guilty. And that was when you had an uprising, a disturbance - a riot, people call it.

SIMON: I gather Garth Reeves Sr. was very careful to refer to what happened not just as riots but as protests.

HAMALUDIN: Yes, yes. The paper did not use the language of riots. The paper used the word uprising or civil disobedience. People did start to take action after this started to happen and, you know, pay attention. And they started to do things about making it, you know, safer for African American communities.

SIMON: He really believed that the newspaper The Miami Times had a mission, didn't it?

HAMALUDIN: When that newspaper started in 1923, I think there was no voice. There was nothing for the African American community. Garth Reeves decided he was going to change all of that when he came back from the war. And he found that he laid his life on the line for the country and the country owed him. When he came back, he was still in the back of the bus. And he decided that this was going to be a voice for the community. And he wanted it also to be a place where they can exchange news among themselves, learn about themselves.

One of the very big sections of The Miami Times, when it was there, was the obituaries - you know, people learning who died and who didn't die. And people were allowed - some people were allowed to write columns in The Miami Times expressing views. And these are all part of the tradition I carried on.

SIMON: He was also involved in a Supreme Court case, wasn't he?

HAMALUDIN: Yeah. The city of Miami owned a golf course in the - late 1949, and the city allowed African American citizens to play golf only on Mondays. And Mondays were when the course was watered. So the African American players had to play when it was being watered. So they sued the city and they went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court did rule in their favor that the city could not tax people and then deny them the right to use facilities that were being paid for by taxpayer dollars.

SIMON: What do you think we can take from what the Reeves family did to contribute to the community?

HAMALUDIN: I think Garth Reeves was very sharply focused to try to get the African American communities to see that, you know, they have a role to play to develop themselves, that they should go after jobs and get money. He said that being poor is no fun; being rich is better. He wanted the African American community to go after education. He wanted the white community to treat African American community as equals, integrating the school system. And all of these things came to pass during Garth Reeves' tenure at The Miami Times.

SIMON: Mohamed Hamaludin, former managing editor of The Miami Times, thanks so much for being with us.

HAMALUDIN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAMMOCK'S "WE COULD HAVE BEEN BEAUTIFUL AGAIN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.