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Accession number A2003.004
Collection Cecil Reed
Title The Cecil Reed Collection
Catalog Number A2003.004
Object Name Papers, Personal
Credit line Collection of the AAMI - Courtesy of Cecil Reed
Physical characteristics Boxed documents span 1.25 linear feet
Dates of Creation 1885-2002
Access Conditions Open for research.
Copyrights no known restrictions
Scope & Content The Cecil Reed Papers date from 1885 to 2002 and measure 1.25 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Personal, Professional, Activities, Speeches, and Photographs.
Biographical History Cecil Reed was born on October 23, 1912 in Collinsville, Illinois. He was born to Julia Reed and her husband William Garrett Reed, who was of Blackhawk Indian and Irish descent. The Reeds had a total of eight kids: Laura, George, Frances, Lulu Bell, Wallace, James, Edith, and Cecil, although Laura died before Cecil's birth.

Julia Reed was a teacher, and William was employed by the railroad, and worked as a deputy sheriff in the evenings. William's job caused them to move, and in 1923 when Reed was 10, the family moved to Cedar Rapids. For the first time Reed saw black entrepreneurs running businesses, and this had quite had an impact on him. He began carrying newspapers, learning the first steps to running a business. Reed was known as "honest and reliable", and continued to deliver papers through his teen years.

Reed attended Adams Elementary School, where he was constantly teased and harassed. At a young age, Reed was forced to learn to survive threatening and humiliating experiences.

In 1928, at the age of 15 Reed had a variety of jobs, including lawn work and a paper route. He attended Washington High School, where he socialized with other black teens, organized dances, and learned money making skills such as auto and electric repairs, building maintenance, cooking, and carpentry. Reed spent his summers working for the police; driving a police vehicle, cleaning cells and feeding prisoners.

Reed also became involved in show business. Reed performed and played instruments in the Three Gold Flashes, a group he formed with his brother Wallace and sister Edith (Edie). The group was named for their finale, where they appeared under flashing lights in gold costumes. Reed would attend school during the day, shine shoes for extra money, and then perform with his siblings in the evenings. Later, after Wallace moved and Edith had married, Reed continue to perform with a fellow dancer, Jack Brinkly.

In addition to shoe shining at the Roosevelt Hotel in Cedar Rapids, Reed worked a variety of odd jobs. He would wash windows, cut grass, and change storm windows and screens. He also worked at a beauty shop for whites, where he cleaned, made shampoo solutions and acted as a general "fix-it" man. He got along well with the shop's owner, so on the side he taught the owner's daughter how to tap-dance.

In 1933 at the age of 20, Reed met Evelyn Collins, the daughter of a local minister. They married in 1936, and shortly thereafter had their first child, daughter Carol. The Reeds had three other children as well: Richard born in 1943, Michael born in 1948, and David born in 1952.

Over the years Reed continued to work a wide variety of jobs. After getting married he worked at the YMCA health club doing massage and acting as a lifeguard. He also worked as a dishwasher, short order cook, chef, and waiter at the Old Hickory Nightclub. In addition, Reed's experience running the Foxhead Tavern, peaked his interest in entrepreneurship. He started a Cecil's Make Believe Band, a DJ'ing business that was a predecessor to American Bandstand. This was just a small endeavor in comparison to what Reed had planned. In the mid 1940s, Reed and his family began a floor maintenance business that became a sizeable operation, and provided the main source of income for the family. Later, inspired by the difficulty of finding lodging while traveling, Reed opened the Sepia Motel in 1953. The motel was intended as a welcoming place for those of all races and religions.

Reed's commitment to the community, in combination with the growing tension of the 1960s, eventually inspired Reed to run for public office. In 1966 Reed ran for the Iowa State General Assembly as a Republican, and was elected in 1967. Reed's victory made him the first black Republican to be elected in the Iowa House of Representatives. While in the legislator, Reed was concerned with a number of issues. One of his major focuses was getting black history studies in schools. Eventually such programs were implemented in Iowa schools, and Reed developed the curriculum for a course called "History of Black America."

In 1967, after being in the legislature for five months Reed was asked to be the head of the Iowa Employment Security Commission. At the time, it was the highest appointment for state office ever held by an African America in Iowa. Reed was bestowed with yet another honor. Before leaving the House he was given the opportunity to be Speaker of the House for a day, making him the first African American to ever preside over the Iowa House of Representatives.

Reed went on to hold a number of state and federal jobs, all dealing with labor policies. In 1969 Reed became the Executive Assistant for the Regional Administrator for Equal Opportunity, Department of Labor. Then in 1971 Reed became the Assistant Administrator for Job Corps in Kansas City, where we worked until 1974. In 1974 he moved on to become the Assistant Regional Administrator for the United States Department of Labor, Area Operations for Employment and Training Programs. Then in 1979 he became the Assistant Regional Administrator for Job Service.

As a business man and legislator, Reed was involved in many committees and organizations. In 1968 he became the chairman of the Iowa division of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Always working to break down racial barriers, in 1968 Reed began the Northern Brotherhood Leadership Conference (NBLC).

Reed finally retired in 1983 at the age of 70.

Finding Aids Box no.___Description_______________________________________________________
Box 1
Award certificates, 1968-2000
Reverend E. Gladstone Scott, undated
Biographies, 1967-2002 and undated
"Cecil Reed: An American treasure," undated
Correspondence, 1956-2002 and undated
"A family profile," undated
The Goldfinch cover photo, Spring 1996
Carole Reed, 1995
David Reed, 1973
Edith Reed Atkinson, 2000
George Reed, 2001
Michael Reed, 1975-1976
Richard Reed, 1994 and undated
Fly in the Buttermilk, 1994
Michael Davis portrait, undated
"A new black voice bridges the people gap," undated
Newspaper clippings
1967-1978 and undated
"Small businessman, big citizen," Des Moines Register, February 23, 1964
Poetry, undated
University of Colorado at Denver Distinguished Service Award, 1996

African American history, 1968-1974 and undated
Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, 1999
Correspondence, 1968-1971
Improved, Benevolent, and Protective Order of Elks of the World, 1948-1949
Elks Grand Lodge Convention, 1976-1989

Box 2
Elks, "The John Brown Reader", 1949
Elks Programs, undated, 1970
Interracial Home Visits, undated
Lincoln Park, Cedar Rapids, undated
NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet, 1997
New Life Ministries,1978
Northern Brotherhood Leadership Conference, 1968-1969 and undated
Purdue University Old Masters' Series, 1972
Republican Party, 1969-1981 and undated
United Methodist Church, 1969
United Nations, Iowa Division, Human Rights Committee, 1968
Washington High School class of 1932 50th class reunion, 1982

African American travel guides, 1957-1965
Business cards and stationery, undated
Iowa Employment Security Commission, 1967-1969
Iowa House of Representatives, 1966-1967 and undated

Motel Sepia, 1953-2000 and undated
National Veteran's Training Institute, 1987-2000
Reed's Floor Sanding and Floor Products, 1965 and undated
Professional training workshops, 1971-1980 and undated
U.S. Department of Labor, 1969-1983 and undated

"Getting the best out of people: care enough to make a difference," Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1996
Introduction for Cecil Reed by John E. Brunzo, Urban League of Greater Little Rock, November 26, 1968
"The questions we always needed to ask to find out the talents of the unemployed, but were afraid to ask," undated
"Train for what?-Train for work!" undated
"Who is my neighbor?" undated
Untitled speech on the self-perception of African American youth, undated
Untitled speech on the "ethic of personhood," undated

Box 3
Correspondence, 1964-1977, 1978-2000
Handouts, undated
Newspaper clippings, 1964-1975 and undated
Notes, undated
Programs, 1968-2001
Speaking engagements inventory, 1968

A.M.E. Church, 1937 and undated
Activities, 1974 and undated
Awards, 1974-1989 and undated

Box 4
Reed's Floor Care Store, undated
Sepia Motel, undated
Speaking engagements, 1964-1998 and undated
Stage performances, undated
Unidentified, undated

Box 5
Cecil Reed family, 1940-1964 and undated
Photographs, Friends, 1958, 1983, undated
Photographs, Law Library, 1992
Cecil Reed Portraits, undated
Club Photographs, undated
Collins Family, 1885-1980 and undated
Duke Ellington visits Cedar Rapids, undated
Evelyn Reed, 1934-1964 and undated
Fly in the Buttermilk book signing, 1994
Lincoln Park, Cedar Rapids, undated
Professional Activities, 1967-1975 and undated
Operation Photo Rescue Reprints of various photos

Box 6
Negatives, 1952-1965 and undated

OS Collection

-Black and white photo of the Legislative Ladies League Iowa 62nd General Assembly 1967
Subjects Legislation
Legislative bodies
Government officials
Labor laws & legislation
Civic leaders
Civil rights
Civil service
Fraternal organizations
Search Terms Cedar Rapids
Quad Cities
African Methodist Episcopal
Churches - Cedar Rapids Bethel
Businesses - African American Owned
Fair Housing
Iowa Legislature
Labor relations
Political campaigns
Floor care
Carpet cleaners
Masons - Prince Hall
Prince Hall Masons
A.M.E. - Bethel of Cedar Rapids
Domestic life
Fraternal lodges
Political offices
African American business owners
People Reed, Cecil
Reed, Julia
Reed, William G.
Reed, Lee Wallace
Reed, Wally
Reed, James M.
Atkinson, Edith Reed
Reed, Frances
Reed, Lulu Bell
Reed, George
Collins, Evelyn
Reed, Evelyn Collins
Collins, John
Reed, Carole
Reed, Richard
Reed, Michael
Reed, David
Reed, Edith
Brinkley, Jack
Classification Domestic Life
Government & Politics
Business & Commerce
Creator Cecil Reed