Posted on March 25, 2019
The El Dorado City Council recognized two former council members who passed away while in office during their regular meeting Thursday.
Officials honored both Jimmy Reed and Tony Henry for their service to the community.
Reed was well-known in the community for his service on the El Dorado School Board, where he was the first African-American to serve, and from the City Council, where he served from 2006 until his death in 2009.
“Mr. Reed could’ve been okay with his retirement, but he wanted to give back, even when he wasn’t feeling good himself,” said Ward 3 council member Willie McGhee. “I’ve got to tell you, I learned a lot from Mr. Reed. … I really appreciate him growing me and teaching me and I couldn’t ask for a better person to guide me through my first years of being on the City Council.”
Ward 3 council member Andre Rucks, who is also Reed’s nephew, said he was inspired by his uncle’s service to his community.
“This is truly an emotional moment for me, coming from my history and where I come from and the impact he had in my life and the things he used to always instill in me. He always told me ‘Andre, don’t go too far off that limb that you can’t come back.’ That stuck with me a lot of my years as I would venture out and try different things,” Rucks said. “I could always hear his voice in the back of my head.”
A reception was held following the City Council meeting, where family and council members mingled around a portrait of Reed that will soon take up residence in City Hall.
One of his daughters, Susan Reed-Allen, traveled from Washington, D.C. for the event; she recently moved back to the states after working for PEPFAR, an HIV and AIDS prevention organization, in South Africa.
Reed-Allen said it was her father who pushed her to branch out and stay curious.
“He made me want to know what else is out there. … My dad was like ‘go and see the world and share it with us,’” she said. “We had so much in common we’d literally sit up all night and talk. He was so interested and interesting.”
She said Reed was an avid reader and that his service on the El Dorado School Board inspired her to join her own child’s school board in South Africa.
“It’s more than what we ever expected … I know that my father has touched a lot of lives in El Dorado,” Reed-Allen said. “He was an unassuming person. He didn’t do it for the recognition.”
Another daughter, Charlotte Reed-Hall, said family traveled from Atlanta, Maryland and Indiana to be at the recognition ceremony.
“I think it’s a really great thing they’re doing for my father. He loved his community … and always went the extra mile,” Reed-Hall said. “We’re happy to be here and really grateful that the city did this.”
Jimmy Reed’s son, Bruce Reed, was in the third grade when his father first won his seat on the El Dorado School Board; he recalled his father staying busy working with community groups throughout his childhood.
“This is a proud moment for me, just watching the things my dad did. He was a great humanitarian … our entire extended family loved him,” Bruce Reed said.
Ruby Reed, Jimmy Reed’s wife, said she was thankful to the city for remembering him so fondly.
“I feel real happy about it, that the City Council thought this much of him,” she said. “I want to thank Willie McGhee and Andre (Rucks) for giving him the party. He was always doing things for other people … I was very proud of Jimmy.”
Henry was also honored Thursday, as both McGhee and Rucks spoke of the upcoming Ward 3 community cleanup. The event, organized by McGhee, Rucks and former council member Kensel Spivey-Green, has been officially named after Henry, who had represented Ward 3 while on the City Council.
Henry played a significant part in organizing the community cleanups before his death. In 2012, Henry was instrumental in launching Keep El Dorado Beautiful when he headed the city’s first KEB committee.
Henry also brought his former employer, Clean Harbors, into the mix when they began assisting with the cleanups. Last year, Clean Harbors began offering a cash incentive to help encourage more participation.
Henry died suddenly last September, shortly after being appointed to the El Dorado City Council as a result of Spivey-Green stepping down from her position on the council. After winning the Democratic primary for the vacant seat last May, Henry would’ve been sworn in for a full term in January. No Republican candidates filed to run for the council seat.
“We actually are honoring Mr. Henry by naming the cleanup after him, because Mr. Henry is really responsible for everything we do as far as Keep El Dorado Beautiful. He’s the one that kind of spearheaded all that … He’s the one that was passionate about all this,” McGhee said.
Rucks, who had also sought the open Ward 3 seat, was named to take Henry's place after his death.
Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.