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A Time to Speak

A Time to Speak: Speeches by Jack Reed

Danny McKenzie
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 192
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    A Time to Speak
    Book Description:

    For more than fifty years, Jack Reed, Sr. (b. 1924) has been a voice of reason in Mississippi--speaking from his platform as a prominent businessman and taking leadership roles in education, race relations, economic and community development, and even church governance.

    Hardly one to follow the status quo, Reed always delivered his speeches with a large dose of good cheer. His audiences, though, did not always reciprocate, especially in his early years when he spoke out on behalf of public education and racial equality. His willingness to participate in civic affairs and his oratorical skills led him to leadership roles at state, regional, and national levels--including the presidency of the Mississippi Economic Council, chairmanship of President George H. W. Bush's National Advisory Council on Education, and charter membership on the United Methodist Church Commission on Religion and Race.

    A Time to Speakbrings together more than a dozen of Reed's speeches over a fifty-year period (1956-2007). The Tupelo businessman discusses the events surrounding his talks about race relations within his church, his deep involvement in education with his close friend Governor William Winter and with President George H. W. Bush, and his own campaign for governor as a Republican in 1987. Danny McKenzie places this original material in historical context.A Time to Speakillustrates how a private citizen with courage can effect positive change.

    Danny McKenzie, a veteran Mississippi newspaper columnist, is the assistant to the president for marketing and development at Blue Mountain College. He is the author ofMatters of the Spirit: Human, Holy, and Otherwise.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-340-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Jack Reed
    (pp. xi-2)
    Danny McKenzie

    Had Jack Reed been of the nineteenth century, he undoubtedly would have been in great demand on the Chautauqua circuit—spreading with great cheer his keen intellect, incisive interpretation of issues at hand, and his abiding faith in God and humankind all across our land as did so many great orators of that day. Fortunately for Mississippians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Reed has lived among us, and has shared his significant oratorical skills with us for some six decades now.

    The art of public speaking is a dying art, due in large part, no doubt, to the electronic...

  5. CHAPTER ONE 1963: A Rare Voice of Reason
    (pp. 3-16)

    There comes a time when a person just has to do what his heart, what his soul tell him to do. For many, it is the defining moment in their lives. For most, those moments are private. For others, they are public.

    Jack Reed can pinpoint his “defining moment” of statewide civic involvement, and it was public, very public: January 22, 1963—when, as president-elect of the Mississippi Economic Council, he stood and spoke to hundreds gathered in the grand ballroom of the venerable Heidelberg Hotel in downtown Jackson for a luncheon and a “citizens action clinic.”

    Among those assembled...

  6. CHAPTER TWO 1965: Witnessing on Race Relations
    (pp. 17-29)

    Jack Reed’s passion for improving race relations in Mississippi was not confined to his family’s department store or manufacturing business, or to the Mississippi Economic Council, or to public education. It was a passion that was perhaps atypical for a southern white male in the 1960s, and it was a passion that by his own admission did not begin to grow until his tour of duty with the U.S. Army during World War II.

    “In looking back, I realize my parents accepted the belief that blacks were inferior,” Reed admits. “But my parents also treated them with respect. We were...

  7. CHAPTER THREE 1956: Beginning to Build Bridges
    (pp. 30-34)

    While Jack Reed’s address to the annual conference of the North Mississippi Methodist Church in June of 1965 was the first time he had “witnessed”—spoken from the heart about his Christian conviction and strong belief in the Methodist Church—it wasn’t the first time he’d spoken to a large group about his faith.

    Though it was a rare occurrence for a white, male Mississippi businessman to state publicly his “moderate” views on racial issues in the state, as Reed had done prominently both in his 1963 speech to the Mississippi Economic Council and then again in 1965 to the...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR 1965: Strong Words for Fellow Methodists
    (pp. 35-43)

    It’s a good thing Jack Reed felt it was his Christian obligation to speak out on matters that many in Mississippi preferred to avoid, because he soon received opportunities—and appointments—beyond his greatest expectations. His address to the annual conference of the North Mississippi Methodist Church in June of 1965 resulted in an invitation a couple of months later to speak to a “mass rally” of Mississippi Methodists at Galloway Memorial Methodist Church in downtown Jackson.

    Located midway between the state capitol and the Governor’s Mansion, where in 1965 segregationist Governor Paul B. Johnson presided and resided, Galloway is...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE 1971: Christian Testimony for Improved Human Relations
    (pp. 44-52)

    In 1968, Jack Reed attended the General (national) Conference of the Methodist Church in Dallas, as an alternate delegate from Mississippi. Though he had for many years been an outspoken advocate of merging the white and black conferences, it was at this meeting that his views on race relations would begin to become more focused.

    “I found out at that time the church had already moved further toward inclusiveness than I had realized,” he says. But it was at the Dallas General Conference that the true plan of merging the jurisdictional conferences and statewide (annual) conferences were written into Methodist...

  10. CHAPTER SIX 1964–1984: An Indefatigable Champion of Public Education
    (pp. 53-64)

    Mississippi’s public schools were in a state of turmoil during the 1960s and 1970s. Being the poorest state in the Union obviously meant the state budget was woeful, but because of the racial prejudice that permeated state politics at the time whatever funds were available for education were carefully scrutinized, making desegregation more difficult. Education in general was never a top priority in any of those legislative sessions, and individual legislators who dared mention integration did so at great risk—politically and personally.

    Tupelo, of course, faced the same problem as every other school district in Mississippi, but educators and...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN 1985–2006: Making Measurable Progress
    (pp. 65-75)

    On June 22, 1985, a little more than a year after being named to the Mississippi Board of Education and being elected its chair, Reed addressed the Mississippi Press Association at its annual luncheon meeting in Biloxi. His purpose was twofold: to thank the newspapers from around the state for their very vital part in securing passage of the Education Reform Act of 1982 and to give them a glimpse of things to come for Mississippi school-children.

    Although I have been introduced often this past year as “an important person—chairman of the Mississippi Board of Education”—consider, if you...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT 1970–Present: The Need for Leadership
    (pp. 76-88)

    Throughout his more than fifty years of speaking out on issues, whether it be race relations, church work, education, or economic development, one theme was the common thread woven into the fabric of Jack Reed’s speeches: leadership.

    Mississippi’s race relations would never improve if leadership from all sides of the complicated equation did not step forward; church leaders had a responsibility to do more than hold Sunday services and Wednesday night prayer meetings; school leaders had to be for more than just learning a trade or how to read and write; business and industry leaders needed to look farther than...

  13. CHAPTER NINE 1987: The Plunge into Politics
    (pp. 89-114)

    For more than twenty years, there had been rumblings around Mississippi that Jack Reed would run for governor. His prominent leadership role in the Mississippi Economic Council and his work with the board of education to reform Mississippi’s public schools had placed Reed squarely in the state spotlight, and by 1986 murmurs of his candidacy for the governor’s office had grown louder.

    For years friends had tried to persuade Reed he should run for governor, but he considered it mere flattery, enjoyed it and dismissed it. For the most part. Though he cared little for the life of a politician,...

  14. CHAPTER TEN 1996: Humor—His Oratorical Trademark
    (pp. 115-121)

    No one enjoys a good joke more than Jack Reed. No one enjoys telling a good joke more than Jack Reed. And for that matter, no one enjoys being the butt of a good joke as much as Jack Reed. Though he is sought out as a speaker because of his vision, his experience, and his wisdom, Reed’s humor is his trademark.

    In talking about the century-old family business, Reed loves to quote the theory that every successful enterprise requires three men: a dreamer, a businessman, and an S.O.B. “If Dad was the dreamer and [brother] Bob was the businessman,...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN 1948–Present: Always a Businessman
    (pp. 122-130)

    Throughout his life, Jack Reed has never professed to being anything other than a businessman trying to make a difference. While he has been an advocate for public education, a crusader for racial reconciliation, a leader in regional economic development, a gubernatorial candidate, and an active citizen in various civic organizations throughout northeast Mississippi, Reed’s heart has always been in his family’s businesses: Reed’s Department Store and Reed Manufacturing.

    There was a time when he considered being a college English teacher, and he did indeed major in English at Vanderbilt University, but then World War II came along and the...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE 1998–Present: Still Speaking Out
    (pp. 131-148)

    For the most part, Reed has indeed stayed home since his tenure on the Mississippi Board of Education and his run for governor. He still spends his days in his office at the department store, breaking each morning to meet with his compatriots in the Downtown Tupelo Coffee Club that he, his brother Bob, and Son Puckett began in 1947. The group has included nearly every prominent Tupelo businessman and civic leader during its sixty years—“and,” Reed says, “I’m sure we’ve solved most of the world’s problems by now.”

    These days, Reed’s biggest source of pride is his family,...

  17. AFTERWORD A Son’s Perspective
    (pp. 149-152)
    Jack Reed Jr.

    I suppose that many of us have our fathers as our heroes. I hope so. When I read the annual Father’s Day essays in theNortheast Mississippi Daily Journal, I am reminded of the many different, poignant ways our fathers influence not only our lives but also the lives of others.

    Frequently, as we listen to children of all ages reminisce about their fathers, we hear comments like: “he loved his vegetable garden, and he grew the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted”; “he could tell the scariest ghost stories”; “he was the most fun coach I ever had.” There are...

    (pp. 153-154)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 155-161)
  20. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 162-177)