By Erick Johnson
MIAMI-It was a service that drew mourners from across the country. The funeral of The Miami Times’ Garth Basil Coleridge Reeves, Sr. on Friday, December 6 was a grand sendoff that to many, was a fitting tribute to the esteemed patriarch and former publisher of Florida’s oldest Black, award-winning newspaper.
Prominent figures from diverse ethnic backgrounds in politics, journalism, civil rights and education gathered at Black Miami’s historic St. Agnes Episcopal Church to celebrate Reeves’ illustrious life in a three-hour funeral that reflected his pioneering contribution that empowered and advanced the agenda of the city’s long ignored Black community.
Black editors and publishers from Miami, Washington D.C., New York, Chicago and Houston traveled miles to say goodbye to a man who was widely regarded as a titan in the Black Press.
For decades Reeves served as the second generation publisher of The Miami Times, a newspaper his father founded in 1923. Building off his father’s legacy, Reeves transformed The Miami Times into Miami’s “Voice of the Black Community’ as racial tensions engulfed the city in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Reeves’ leadership earned him many honorary doctorate degrees and numerous awards. During his lifetime, Reeves’ leadership desegregated Miami’s beaches country clubs and the boards of prominent civic organizations. Reeves died November 25. He was 100.
Reeves left behind his grandson Garth Basil Reeves III, who at just 29, now serves as publisher of The Miami Times. After the funeral outside the church, mourners shared their condolences with him.
Reeves is also survived by longtime partner, Barbara Johnson.
Before the service at St. Agnes Episcopal Church, mourners filed past Reeves bronze open casket outside the sanctuary, where he looked peaceful and dapper dressed in a black suit. A folded American flag sat by Reeves’side in honor of his service in the U.S. Army during World War II.
During the funeral, Reeves was praised as a hero who led with courage and compassion.
“We thank God for this freedom fighter. We thank God for this publisher of The Miami Times that became the times of all African people” said Dr. Benjamin Chavis, president of the National Newspaper Publishers organization, which represents over 200 Black newspapers across the country. “We’ve come today from around the country, to salute a member and to rededicate ourselves to the values and integrity that Garth Reeves [Sr.] for 100 years represented.”
“For the past 55 years, he was our [Nelson]Mandela,” said Willard T. Fair, the longtime president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami, Inc.
Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon recalled growing up in the James E. Scott Public Housing project in Liberty City, an inner city neighborhood where The Miami Times is located.
“I’m the only Negro sitting on Miami’s City Commission and I say it like that because you have to understand that Garth Reeves reminded me that you should always know who you are,” Hardemon.
David Lawrence, Jr., former publisher of the Miami Herald, said “he never looked to just publish. He looked for results. And he got results and not by his lonesome, but he had a great knack for working for others.”
“He commanded respect everywhere he went,” said Dr. Eduardo J. Padron, president emeritus of Miami-Dade College, where Reeves served as the first Black member of the institution’s board of directors. “He always stood tall with courage for his convictions… He never stopped caring. Garth always had a moral compass. He was tough as he could be when he needed to be.”
Reeves was entombed at Vista Memorial Gardens, where his daughter, The Miami Times publisher Rachel Reeves was laid to rest just two months ago.
Reeves’ repast was held at Miami Shores Country Club, a venerable institution that ironically was segregated years before it admitted Black members.
A separate ceremony was held on Thursday, December 5 at Liberty City’s The Church of the Incarnation, where Reeves served as a founding member. At that service, Reeves received numerous proclamations frommunicipalities including Miami, and Miami Gardens, the largest predominately Black city in Florida. Other proclamations came from the Black Archives of South Florida, Miami-Dade County and from Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, whose chief of staff, Alexis Snyder was there on her behalf. Snyder said Wilson will present the proclamation on the floor of Congress and the document will be included in the Congressional Record.
The liturgy service was also attended by numerous members of Reeves’ predominately Black high school and college alma maters, Booker T. Washington and Florida A&M University.
A handful of people spoke at the liturgy service, including Kevin D. McNeir, former senior editor of The Miami Times, reflected on his experiences with Reeves. McNeir is currently the editor of the Washington Informer in the nation’s capital.
Eric Knowles, President & CEO of the predominately Black Miami-Dade of Commerce, presented a resolution in honor of Reeves’ legacy.
Former Miami Mayor and current County Commissioner Xavier Suarez was among a handful of politicians who attended the special liturgy service.
After the service, about 60 members of Reeves’ fraternity, Omega Pi Psi sang a solemn farewell for their fallen brother. After the funeral the next day, they gave the same sendoff before Reeves’ casket was placed in the hearse and carried away.