A. Reginald Eaves, 1934-2015, !Presente! (UPDATE 1)
Mr. Eaves served as Fulton County Commissioner from 1979 to 1987, and was the first Black person to serve as Public Safety Commissioner for the City of Atlanta, from 1974 to 1978.
He was the first Black person to serve as Public Service Commissioner in the U.S.
Eaves was also a progressive activist, and, according to Atlanta Progressive News’s archives, participated in civil disobedience actions even in his late seventies.
In 2009, he protested at a Wells Fargo Bank in East Point related to apparent predatory lending and lack of mortgage refinancing pursuant to federal programs. He was arrested for criminal trespassing after refusing to leave without a meeting with the bank’s President, John Stumpf.
The charges were dismissed after he and four other activists agreed to perform twenty community service hours to an organization of their choice.
“I’m sick and tired of foreclosures, and the people can’t afford it. We wanted to get them to talk to us about foreclosure practices. We want them to modify their procedures and take into consideration the people,” Eaves told Atlanta Progressive News at the time.
In 1981, he ran for Mayor of Atlanta. And in 2009, he ran for the Atlanta City Council District 11 seat, in a crowded race.
He also served as Board Chairman for Economic Opportunity Atlanta (EOA), the community action authority for Atlanta, that was a predecessor to Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority (FACAA), according to Joyce Dorsey, FACAA CEO.
Eaves also apparently made a few mistakes during his time as Fulton County Commissioner. In 1988, a federal grand jury found him guilty of three counts of extorting cash from developers seeking zoning changes and from a Federal Bureau of Investigations agent posing as a developer, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
He was sentenced to six years in prison and five years probation, but ultimately served less than two years in prison, according to the AJC.
Julie Brown, a friend of Eaves, who volunteered for his 2009 Council campaign, objected to inclusion of this information in this article, noting that he “paid his debt to society.” APN included the information as a matter of historical importance and public record. Moreover, the fact that his progressive work continued on decades after the conviction, and despite the conviction, speaks for itself.
“He was one of the greatest, kindest, caring individuals you would have ever met. Even in life after politics, he still stood on the side of the least of these,” Brown said.
“He was Chair of the [Georgia Coalition for the] People’s Agenda Public Safety Committee, and a member of the Concerned Black Clergy, still fighting for the people,” Brown said.
“Up until his stroke last November , his main passion… he was happy there was a hung jury for Burrell Ellis,” the former CEO of DeKalb County, Brown said.
“We were co-hosts of the Hot Seat. We hosted that show for about two years, a political forum that was just an open mike political forum format where we had call-ins, we talked about hot issues facing the City, the County, or the State. It was just like the Georgia Gang, but we just weren’t wealthy,” former Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education Member Mitzi Bickers told APN.
“It was a great fun. It was well-watched, we had a lot of viewers in the City of Atlanta and South DeKalb. It was a nice forum, it was quite informative. We would always give candidates the same amount of time, we didn’t do endorsements,” Bickers said.
“Metropolitan Atlanta is a much better place because of him, he contributed so much for the families of the city. People loved him, people respected his commitment to the community, to growth and development particularly in the African American community,” Bickers said.
“A. Reginald Eaves had one of the best political minds of any person I met in Atlanta… he was honest and sincere and really committed to progressive ideas,” Dwanda Farmer, an Atlanta activist currently living in Baltimore, Maryland, said.
“I had the opportunity to work with him on a daily basis. Him and Maynard Eaton both worked at the Atlanta Voice newspaper in 1999. I started working with Janis Ware, SUMMECH, in the same building,” Farmer said.
“I think he, over all the people in Atlanta, appreciated my forthright outspoken manner and he encouraged that from me,” Farmer said.
“There’s a bunch of fake people in Atlanta–politicians who act like they’re down for the community and they’re really out for themselves–and he wasn’t one of them,” Farmer said.
“Reggie, to me, was the Super-Cop. He was a courageous guy who stepped into Atlanta at a time when racial tensions were at an all time high,” Maynard Eaton, journalist and publicist, told APN.
“I thought he pulled it out very well. He was a political animal, but really well liked. Rarely is a policeman liked,” Eaton said.
“Controlling the guns, controlling the police force was a major jumping off point for Black men,” Eaton said, comparing Eaves to the late State Rep. Billy McKinney, who was also a Black police officer during a time when Black officers were not allowed to arrest White people in Atlanta.
“He morphed from being the Super-Cop, to a super-sort of activist and critic of the status quo. You see a guy once arresting people, getting arrested now,” Eaton said, referring to his civil disobedience at Wells Fargo bank.
“He was [former Mayor] Maynard Jackson’s right hand man, brought down by Maynard personally. He was an insider who became an outsider,” Eaton said.
“He was much of a major political figure as anyone in those days. The cheating scandal weared him down, he became somewhat bitter after that. He became an advocate and activist for Black folks,” Eaton said.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I bring to you news of an extremely personal loss for me… I knew him as my uncle, mentor and confidante,” Fulton County Chairman John Eaves said in a statement.
“Today, I learned that after several major health setbacks in recent months, my Uncle Reginald has died. I was at his bedside, along with his siblings, at the time my Uncle Reginald passed,” John Eaves said.
“A. Reginald Eaves was a gregarious man who lived his life to the fullest. He was a proud public servant and, more importantly, a proud family man. He was a sounding board upon whom I leaned on many occasions. Any place I had been or anything I had achieved in my life, Uncle Reginald had achieved before,” John Eaves said.
“This loss is a huge one for my family. My uncle is part of the reason I wanted to enter the realm of public service. He cared about making the community around us a better place. He loved his family, he loved life and he loved the City of Atlanta, his adopted hometown,” John Eaves said.
“Throughout many of the health issues he encountered in recent years, I had many constituents and friends ask me about his condition and status. What I can tell you now is this; the suffering he endured in recent years is over. All I ask of you at this time is to remember my family in your prayers. Thank you and May God bless you,” John Eaves said.
UPDATE 1: “A. Reginald Eaves came to Atlanta at a time when the City was in racial turmoil and transformational change was needed. Eaves was on the leading edge of that change. Besides his public role, Eaves was a dear friend to my father and the McKinney family,” former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) said in a statement.