Friday, July 25, 2014

Black Republican History: Reynolds, Grant (1908-2004)

Grant Reynolds & A. Philip RandolphTestifying Before a Senate Committee, 1948
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Grant Reynolds was a civic leader, civil rights activist, World War II chaplain, attorney, and educator. He was best known as a leading force in ending segregation in the United States Armed Forces.

Reynolds was born July 29, 1908 in Key West, Florida to Emma Flowers and Frank Reynolds. In 1934 he attended the Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Missouri, and four years later became the first African American to receive a Bachelor of Divinity degree. In 1938, he became pastor at Mount Zion Congregational Temple in Cleveland, Ohio and was ordained as minister in 1939. In Cleveland, Reynolds served as president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In August of 1941, Reynolds became a United States Army Chaplain, serving at a number of bases in Virginia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Arizona, and California. In early 1944, Reynolds resigned in protest of the brazen racism he had encountered during his time in service.
In 1944 he was appointed New York State Commissioner of Correction and concurrently enrolled in Columbia Law School. In 1946, Reynolds ran against Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. to represent Harlem's 22nd district in Congress.

 Though he won the Republican nomination with the support of singer-actress Etta Moten, pianist Mary Lou Williams, author Zora Neale Hurston, and heavyweight boxing champ Joe Louis, Reynolds was ultimately defeated by Powell in the final election.

Reynolds was appointed Counsel to the Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  Opposing Barry Goldwater's candidacy for president in 1964, Reynolds lost his position as Counsel. 

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