Since the days From his youth, the generous and selfless disposition of the African-American lawyer from Idaho Falls, Reginald Reeves, was focused on the needs of others.
During Reginald’s second year at the University of Idaho Law School in 1950, Army General Omar Bradley appealed to the American people asking for blood donations to meet the urgent needs of the American soldiers wounded or injured in the increasing combat operations of the Korean War. Inspired by action, Reginald helped organize the first college blood drive in American history and donated his first pint of blood. Every dorm on campus had a blood donation station, every floor of every dorm, fraternity, and sorority had a place to donate blood. There was a competition between dorms and floors and, through student newspapers, between colleges and universities across America.
Harvard University students donated the most blood, Reginald said, with those at the University of Idaho coming in second.
From that first pint in 1950, Reginald continued to donate blood throughout his life, reaching an incredible 50 gallons donated by 2020, which must surely be a state record and an amount that could potentially have saved 1,200 military and civilian lives. I had thought that he would probably stop donating blood after achieving this noble goal, but I was wrong; now in her 94e year, he continues to donate blood every 56 days.
Blood and life are not all Reginald has given.
Many years ago, Reeves founded the Sun Valley Charitable Foundation through which humanitarian aid was provided to low-income and needy people in 10 counties in eastern Idaho, two in southwestern Idaho. Montana, two in southwestern Wyoming, one in Boise, and others in several foreign countries. . Millions of dollars of donated items were collected from businesses and individuals, including drugs, medical equipment, personal care products, food, clothing, household items, glasses, computers, books, toys and other items to distribute to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, nursing homes, domestic violence centers, low-income apartment complexes, senior centers, elders’ organizations combatants, schools and Indian reserves. Nineteen volunteers helped collect and distribute goods to 2,000 people and over 500 families each week. Hundreds of computers have been sent to needy schoolchildren in the United States and third world countries. Medical and hospital supplies have been dispatched to places such as the US Virgin Islands, Nepal, Vietnam, Kosovo and Guatemala.
Lt. Col. Reeves also served his nation, state, and community through a long-standing association with the military. Volunteering for Reserve Service at the age of 17 during World War II, he eventually became a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves. He was a platoon leader in the 382sd Infantry Regiment, taught ROTC at the University of Idaho and military government at the Presidio of San Francisco. In Idaho Falls, Reeves worked closely with Captain Jerry Wadsworth and the Navy League in promoting patriotic events. The two co-founded the elite âCedar Badgeâ program for the region’s Boy Scout Council.
As a lawyer, Reginald Reeves did some 180 hours of volunteer legal work for veterans each year.
Reginald has served on many prominent commissions and boards, including the Idaho State Mental Health Advisory Council, the Governor’s Child
Support the Execution Commission and the Idaho Commission for the Arts and Humanities. For 12 years he played the clarinet in the Idaho Falls Symphony without compensation. His numerous awards and medals cannot all be listed, but include a National First Place Nathan Burkan Memorial Award for an article on copyright, three major military awards for public service, including one of the chiefs of staff Joint, Idaho State Bar Outstanding Service Award, Alumni Hall of Fame, University of Idaho and American Red Cross Heroes Award.
Reginald Reeves’ career as a lawyer and humanitarian has been marked by moments of sadness and disappointment.
Born in Greensboro, North Carolina to James H. and Ellen Boyd Reeves, his father was a butcher but eventually operated a pool hall after losing a hand. Her mother was a schoolteacher. Child prodigy, Reginald started school at the age of 4 in the 3rd to note. He graduated with Honors from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Mathematics. Deciding to study law, he applied and was accepted by the University of Idaho Law School, which had the lowest tuition fees in the country. However, school officials did not realize he was black and soon after asked all law school applicants to provide a photo. Reginald was the only black student in law school and remembers only one other black student in college. He was not invited to join a legal fraternity. Discrimination was nothing new to Reginald, however; when he was 17, he was arrested for sitting in a white section on a city bus.
Reginald was invited to join Alvin Denman’s law firm in Idaho Falls, but upon arriving in town, no hotel gave him a room, and some fraternal organizations did not allow him to attend meetings.
Reg once told me that he never made a lot of money as a lawyer because he spent so much time doing charitable work. I remember visiting his Cambridge Avenue law firm a few years ago and noticing his vintage 1960s decor, a time capsule. Reg read my mind and just told me he never had enough money to upgrade.
I first met Reg in 1953 when my 8e my classmate Kent Misseldine took me to visit Reg at his office to see his stamp collection. I was impressed by the humility and generosity of this man who changed his busy schedule to talk about the educational value of stamp collecting with these two unannounced and neglected 13 year olds. I was even more impressed when I found out that he had paid Bud Cheney, another friend, three dollars in cash to mow his lawn when the going rate was one dollar!
Sixty-eight years after I first met Reg, who is now long retired, he gave me the original collection of stamps he showed me in 1953. Reginald Reeves still gives.
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