Crusader Staff Report
Black newspaper publishers are remembering Rachel Janie Reeves, who continued her family dynasty as the first Black female publisher of The Miami Times.
Reeves died September 12 in Miami after a long illness. She was 69.
In this week’s edition of The Miami Times, the newspaper weekly dedicated its entire front page to Reeves. Her funeral was scheduled for September 19 at the historic Saint Agnes’ Episcopal Church in Miami’s historic Overtown neighborhood.
Dorothy R. Leavell, publisher of the Chicago Crusader and Gary Crusader, was a longtime friend of Reeves.
“We shared a unique bond and strong sisterhood at a time when there were few Black female newspaper publishers,” Leavell said. “We had to be strong leaders as we steered Black newspapers through some tough times. She was a force in the Black Press. She left her mark in Miami and across the country.”
Reeves was a member publisher of the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA), an organization of over 200 Black newspapers across the country.
In her final years, Reeves took care of her aging father, Garth C. Reeves, Sr., until her health declined. She loved her father and often expressed her admiration of him.
Born in 1950, Reeves worked as a typesetter at the newspaper while attending Miami Northwestern High School. She transferred to Miami Central High School, where she graduated in 1968. She attended Bennett College, a historically Black school in North Carolina. Her father, Garth C. Reeves, Sr., a centenarian, has now outlived his two children. In 1982, Garth Reeves, Jr. died of a terminal illness at 30, leaving the newspaper’s future leadership uncertain.
According to one article in The Miami Times, Rachel Reeves had not been groomed for publisher. She worked at the family newspaper as an advertising clerk and business manager. Her father was considering selling the newspaper after Garth Reeves Jr. died.
Rachel Reeves took the helm at The Miami Times in 1994. Under her leadership, the newspaper switched from tabloid to broadsheet. The front and back pages of The Miami Times was also changed to a unique, glossy look, making the newspaper stand out on newsstands and grocery store racks. Rachel Reeves also spearheaded an ongoing renovation of the newspaper’s iconic headquarters building in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood.
In Miami, Reeves served on several boards including the United Way, Dade Community Foundation, Boy Scouts of America, International Women’s Forum, and Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, according to The Miami Times.
Founded in 1923 by Bahamian Harry Ethelbert Sigismund Reeves in the Overtown neighborhood, The Miami Times is South Florida’s oldest and most respected Black newspaper. With their affluence and power, Rachel Reeves was born into one of the few Black prominent families that helped shape the political agenda in a city that has undergone turbulent social change.
Her newspaper became known as “The Voice of the Black Community” as the newspaper supported a year-long Black boycott of hotels on Miami Beach in 1990 after city and county leaders refused to honor South African leader Nelson Mandela because of his support of then Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Back then, Rachel was on the cusp of succeeding her father at the newspaper. An often stylish, well-dressed figure, Rachel Reeves was a tough businesswoman who often made tough decisions and kept spending to a minimum.
“She was a very hard-working businesswoman who was very determined to make sure the newspaper survived and appealed to the next generation of readers,” said Mohammad Hamaludin, who worked under Reeves for 15 years at The Miami Times. Originally from Ghana, Hamaludin came to The Miami Times in 1984, where he rose from reporter to executive editor. He left the newspaper in 1999 before briefly working as an editor at The Miami Herald and the Black newspaper, The South Florida Times. Hamaludin is now retired.
“I owe so much to the Reeves’,” Hamaludin told the Crusader. “They gave me a job at a time when it was difficult to find work as a young journalist.”
Hamaludin said Rachel Reeves’ greatest contribution was making sure the newspaper was financially sound.
“She gave it financial stability and that allowed the editorial side to be able to do the things we did.”
Rachel groomed her son to take over the family dynasty. She often brought him to the office when he was very young to expose him to the newspaper’s operations. From time to time she would provide business advice and tough leadership to help her son succeed as a future newspaper publisher. He was sent to some the finest private schools in Miami. When Garth Basil Reeves graduated from Emory, he came to work for the newspaper as vice president of business development. In that role, Reeves worked hard to keep the newspaper afloat as the print industry continued to struggle with declining advertising revenue. With fresh ideas, Garth Basil Reeves explored ways to boost readership and reinvigorate the newspaper with bigger graphics and new editorial talent.
With the support of his mother, those ideas worked. The newspaper won the prestigious John B. Russwurm Award for Best Black Newspaper, awarded by the National Newspaper Publishers’ Association in 2019, 2018 and 2013. The newspaper also won the award at the annual NNPA Convention in Chicago, in 2011.
As her only child, Garth Basil Reeves, kept the newspaper going as his mother’s health declined. At 29 years old, Garth Basil Reeves is poised to take the helm as perhaps the youngest Black publisher in the country.