Reginald Ray Reeves
Lt. Col. (Ret.) Reginald Ray Reeves, 95, longtime Idaho Falls attorney, Sun Valley resident, civic leader and humanitarian died on November 17th, 2023 in Idaho Falls.
Reginald was born to James Holt Reeves and Ellen Theresa Boyd Reeves on December 20th, 1927 in Greensboro, North Carolina. His siblings were James Holt Reeves Jr. and Ellen Theresa Reeves-Coleman. Reginald received his early education in Greensboro, graduating from James B. Dudley High School in 1943, at the age of 16. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics with honors from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College graduating magna cum laude at the age of 19.
While at A&T, and long before the advent of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ms. Rosa Parks, Reginald began a solo crusade against bus segregation. On a trip to North Carolina, he vowed that never again would he sit in the back of a bus (unless he chose to do so). He purchased a ticket, entered the bus and sat in the front seat. Upon his refusal to accede to the demand of the bus driver that he move to the rear of the bus, the sheriff arrived and he was taken to jail. Realizing that many people of color had been lynched for less egregious behavior, Reginald needed to get out of jail before he could be “taken out” by members of the KKK. Allowed to use the telephone, he called his professor, Dr. John Withers, who promptly wired the bail money. He was not prosecuted but the arrest remained on his record for many years with the Army even using it to deny promotions to which he was entitled.
Two years later, Reginald broke ground by becoming the first person of color to enroll in, and graduate from the College of Law at the University of Idaho. Following graduation, Reginald joined the father of a classmate, Alvin L. Denman and practiced law in Idaho Falls for more than 61 years until his recent death.
He married Verna Martin and they had two children from their union, Ray Reeves and Regina Reeves, however the marriage ended in divorce. He then married Donna Gerard West (who insisted that she first met him when he was eight years old)! Sadly, she passed away in 2021.
From the days of his youth, the generous and selfless disposition of Reginald Reeves was fixed upon the need to serve others. In 1950, during his second year in law school, Army General Omar Bradley issued an urgent plea to the American people asking for blood needed by wounded soldier during the Korean War. Answering the call, Reginald helped organize the first college blood drive in American history and gave his first pint of blood. Starting with that first pint, he continued donating blood throughout his life and reached an astounding total of 51 gallons donated by 2021, which according to blood bank officials is probably an Idaho record.
Blood is not all that Reginald Reeves has given. He founded the Sun Valley Charitable Foundation through which humanitarian aid has been provided to destitute families and individuals in ten eastern Idaho counties and into Western Wyoming and Montana. Millions of dollars of donated items from businesses and individuals which included medicine, medical equipment, food, clothing, household goods, books, toys, etc. were gathered. Hundreds of computers were sent to schools in low-income communities in the United States and to developing countries.
Reginald also served his nation and community through military service, volunteering for Army service at the age of 17 during World War II. He eventually reached the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Army. Working closely with Captain Jerry Wadsworth, he promoted patriotic community events and helped establish the elite “Cedar Badge” program for the Boy Scout Council. As an attorney, Reginald annually donated over 180 hours of free legal service to local veterans.
He served on the Idaho State Mental Health Advisory Council and the Idaho Commission of the Arts and Humanities. He founded the Idaho Alpine Club, the Lions Sight Foundation, the Idaho Falls Ski Club, the Idaho Falls Arts Club, the “I Have a Dream” Sun Valley Foundation and dozens of other charitable, educational and cultural organizations. For twelve years he played the Clarinet in the Idaho Falls Symphony without any compensation.
Linden Bateman (Reginald’s friend of 70 years), former member of the Idaho Legislature tells his story of Reginald’s kindness and generosity: In 1953, when Linden was 13, a friend brought him to Reginald’s office to show him Reginald’s impressive stamp collection. Reginald treated these two teenagers with respect and dignity and took time out of his busy schedule explaining the educational value of stamp collecting. Reginald and Linden have remained friends since that day and almost 70 years later Reginald gave Linden his special stamp collection from 1953!
Reginald is survived by his daughter, Regina Reeves of Pocatello, ID; his son, Ray (Tiffany) Reeves of Pocatello, ID; his step-son, Matt (Eleanor) Chandronait of Martinez, CA; his grandsons, Alonzo Neal Jr. and Tobias Molder; step-grandson, Theodore Chandronait.
With Reginald’s passing, the world has lost a great and humble humanitarian.
A Celebration of Life for Reginald will be held in the spring of 2024 with Full Military Honors.