MONTGOMERY, Ala. — At a polling place not far from the intersection of avenues named for Jefferson Davis and Rosa Parks, Laura Minor spent a scorching afternoon on a folding chair with a David Woods for Mayor sticker on her shirt. She had been hired to represent his campaign, yet she was not shy about making it clear that Mr. Woods had bought her time but had not won her vote.
Im actually supporting Steven Reed, Ms. Minor said, explaining the enthusiasm she had, as a black woman and nearly lifelong resident of Montgomery, for the other candidate: Mr. Reed, a probate judge and the son of a prominent political family, who emerged from a runoff race on Tuesday as the first African-American elected to lead Alabamas capital city.
Montgomery, site of historic bus boycott, elects first black mayor in its 200-year history
His campaign, and its success, has sent a jolt of excitement and validation through the black community, which makes up 60 percent of the citys population.
Video: Steven Reed speaks after winning Montgomery mayoral election
Montgomery is fundamentally shaped by tandem legacies as a capital in the nations vicious racial past and as a cradle for the civil rights movement. And many who grew up under the shadow of that history could not help but hope that they were seeing the start of a thrilling new chapter.
This is our season, said Yolanda Sayles Robinson, 59, who was born in the city and described herself as a product of the 1960s. Weve been waiting for this for a long time.
Mr. Reed entered the nonpartisan runoff with Mr. Woods, a white television station owner, after advancing from what had been a 12-person race. In the election on Tuesday, Mr. Reed captured 67 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results released by the city. Now, Montgomery joins Birmingham and Selma, two other monumental battlegrounds in Alabamas civil rights fight, in selecting young, African-American men as mayors.
You believed that we didnt have to be defined by our past, Mr. Reed told the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd that had jammed into a hall for his election-night gathering and chanted his name and One Montgomery as he ascended the stage. Its not going to be about the first. Its not even going to be about the best. Its going to be about the impact we make on the lives of others.
In some corners, Montgomery, set on the Alabama River with a population of about 200,000, has gone through a revitalization.
Flowers says Reed’s support crossed racial lines as he picked up many white voters to score such a large win. Flowers says Reed also represents a transition to a new, younger generation of leadership.
Alabama capital elects first black mayor in its 200-year history
The history that has long haunted the city has evolved into a source of a boon, as a national memorial to victims of lynching and a museum of slavery and mass incarceration draw large crowds. New hotels and other developments have popped up downtown, and the streets around the State Capitol are dotted with restaurants bustling with young people. Hyundai, the automaker, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into a plant that has been a major job provider.
Morehouse grad elected first black mayor of Montgomery, Alabama
Still, the citys gains have not been spread evenly. Pockets of the city have streets lined with overgrown lots and hollowed-out homes, and there are neighborhoods mired in poverty and crime.
Woods, Reed will be allowed to have watcher at election center Tuesday night
There are also concerns about losing talented young people to bigger cities, attracted by their wealth of options for careers and culture. Ms. Robinsons daughter, who is in her 30s, left for Brooklyn and most likely will never return. That hurt my heart, she said of her leaving. We need to have opportunity here.
During his campaign, Mr. Reed talked about bringing about progress regardless of neighborhood, regardless of ZIP code. He said he would encourage investment in education and seek to improve ties between the police and the citys minority communities.
Former Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford Speaks Out about Steven Reeds Election
He joined a packed field of candidates who stepped forward after the incumbent, Todd Strange, who has held the office since 2009, said he was not running for re-election. Ten of those candidates were black and included a lawyer, a retired United States Air Force brigadier general and an employee of the state Department of Corrections.
Montgomery elects Steven Reed as its first black mayor
Mr. Reed received 42 percent of the vote during the first mayoral election in August, and was trailed by Mr. Woods, who had campaigned on his business expertise. On Tuesday, Mr. Woods, whose political experience was limited to an unsuccessful congressional bid in 2008, signaled his support for Mr. Reed as he conceded. A unified Montgomery, he said in a television interview, is a lot stronger than a divided Montgomery.
Its a Historic Day in Montgomery, Ala.
Mr. Reed was the first black probate judge in Montgomery County and a graduate of Morehouse, the historically black college in Atlanta, and Vanderbilt, where he earned an M.B.A. He also has deep ties to the community. His father, Joe Reed, has been the longtime leader of the black caucus of the state Democratic Party, and his family has been a fixture in the city. Some voters recounted memories of Mr. Reed as a teenager or seeing him as a young boy in church, and shared a certain pride in following his rise.
Pierre Flowers, however, had no clue who the man going around shaking hands in his barbershop was. But as Mr. Reed struck up a conversation with him, he was taken by how unassuming the candidate was. He seemed like he had a good vibe, Mr. Flowers, 28, said just after voting for him. Why not?
The vote, for some, carried deep meaning, even drawing comparisons to 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected. Here we are, said Derrick Marshall, 63, a teachers aide who has lived in Montgomery virtually his entire life, standing at the door of another significant event.
The city was incorporated in December 1819 and served as the first capital of the Confederate States of America. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also planned the Montgomery bus boycott, the protest that made Rosa Parks a household name, in a church in the city.
Evidence of that history abounds in a highway sign advertising the First White House of the Confederacy, and the school and thoroughfare named for Jefferson Davis, the confederacys only president. It also lingers in less visible ways, in the racial tensions that Montgomery, as the rest of Alabama, has not been able to settle.
Alabamas Capital Elects Its First Black Mayor
Its been an incredible education, said Kim Anderson, a white resident of Montgomery originally from the Finger Lakes area of New York. Its been an education that I couldnt have gotten anywhere else.
Reports: Montgomery, Alabama, elects its first-ever black mayor
But many looked at the election as a sign of the progress still being made. It was a reflection of a shift underway as a younger generation — one decades removed from the civil rights movements of their parents and grandparents yet also mobilized by the racial struggles of their own era — has stepped forward.
Mr. Reed joins Randall Woodfin, the 38-year-old mayor of Birmingham, Alabamas largest city, and Darrio Melton, 40, who has been the mayor of Selma since 2016. Talladega also elected its first black mayor, Timothy Ragland, 29, on Tuesday.
Live Montgomery election runoff results, including mayor and Montgomery City Council races
On election night, as speakers thumped with music — with a playlist that included Beyoncé, Usher and the Isley Brothers — the crowd at Mr. Reeds party watched local television news projected onto a wall, cheering as the vote totals flashing across the screen edged in their direction.
Mr. Reeds win would be a blessing, some said, and an answer to their prayers. It was something they had sought for generations, but Sylvia Norman was among those who saw the delay as a gift of sorts. Years without a black mayor, she said, had strengthened the communitys resolve to make it happen.
A Long Time Coming: Montgomery Elects Its First Black Mayor, Steven Reed
It didnt take too long, Ms. Norman said as the crowd roared around her. God did it in his time. She noticed on the television that more precincts had reported and that Mr. Reeds significant lead had solidified. She cheered, danced and jumped as it looked like that time might soon arrive.
Rick Rojas is a national correspondent for The New York Times covering the American South. He has been a staff reporter for The Times since 2014. @RaR
Alabama's capital city of Montgomery, known as the birthplace of the civil rights movement, elected an African-American mayor Tuesday for the first time in the city’s nearly 200-year history.
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Steven Reed, who became Montgomery County’s first African-American probate judge in 2012, won about 67 percent of the vote in a nonpartisan runoff election, according to unofficial results released Tuesday night.
Reed defeated David Woods, a white television station owner, after the two earned the most votes in a 12-person election in August, the New York Times reported. He will replace the current mayor of Montgomery, Todd Strange, who chose not to run for reelection after a decade in office, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. Reed will be sworn in Nov. 12.
"This election has never been about me," Reed said in his victory speech. "This election has never been about just my ideas. It's been about all the hopes and dreams we have as individuals and collectively in this city."
"Montgomery is a city with limitless potential, a city that has no limits outside of our imagination," Reed continued. "The only thing that can hold us back is our fears. When we come together there's nothing that we can't accomplish. "
In his concession speech, Woods said: “We’re just going to go forward and try to support Steven Reed as mayor. And I just want to encourage everyone to try to continue to work together to bring Montgomery as a unified city. A unified Montgomery is a lot stronger than a divided Montgomery.”
Montgomery has historically been a hotbed for racial tension. Southern delegates gathered in Montgomery in 1861 to vote to form the Confederacy. The city is also home to the church where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized the Montgomery bus boycott, in which Rosa Parks became a symbol of the 1960s civil rights movement.
Reed was endorsed by Democratic 2020 hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, Montgomery's WSFA-TV reported. His father, Joe Reed, is the longtime leader of the black caucus of the Alabama Democratic Party.