MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Frederick D. Reese, an early leader in the civil rights movement who invited Martin Luther King Jr. to work in Selma, died Thursday at age 88.
James Perkins, pastor of Selma’s Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church where Reese served as pastor of for 50 years, confirmed Reese’s death.
In the early 1960s, only 300 black citizens were registered to vote in Dallas County. Known as F.D., Reese led a group of activists known as Selma’s “Courageous Eight” who pushed for African-American voting rights despite a court injunction aimed at stopping marches and mass meetings in Alabama.
“We were ready to give our lives to let those who controlled voting in Selma know we were going to determine our own destiny,” Reese told the Montgomery Advertiser in a 2015 article recalling the early days of the fight. “We weren’t going to stop until we became registered voters.”
As president of the Dallas County Voter’s League from 1964 to 1965, Reese sent a letter inviting King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to come to Selma in 1960s to help the voting rights movement.
Reese later became one of the first African-American members of the Selma City Council and was portrayed by actor E. Roger Mitchell in the 2014 movie “Selma.”
“The family appreciates the outpouring expressions of condolence and asks that you continue in prayer. My father was a strong pillar of our family who taught us the power of God and prayer. We grieve with hope,” son Marvin Reese said in a statement.