Montgomery, Alabama, made history by electing its first-ever black mayor in a city known for being a focal point of the 1960s fight for civil rights, stemming from actions by Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Steven Reed, 45, became the mayor-elect of Montgomery on Tuesday night after serving as a probate judge for the city. Reed was elected to his former post in 2012 as the youngest and first black probate judge in the history of Montgomery. He is the son of Joe Reed, the current vice chair of Minority Affairs of the Alabama Democratic Party and longtime chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference.
"If there was any doubt about what we can do when we come together, when we unify this city, let the record show tonight, above all, show what we can do when we come together in this city and we build around positivity, around opportunity, and all the things that tie us together," Reed said to his supporters after winning the election.
Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus in 1955, sparking a civil rights movement that blazed through the southern United States and saw the end of segregationist Jim Crow laws. She is often remembered as the "mother of the freedom movement."
Montgomery remained at the center of the push for integration and civil rights in the U.S. throughout the 1950s and 60s. The Freedom Riders, who refused to adjust seating based on race as their bus traveled from integrated northern states into segregated southern states, were met with a violent mob at the Montgomery Greyhound station in 1961. Their actions motivated the federal government to desegregate transportation on a permanent basis.
In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders, including Alabama Rep. John Lewis, marched 50 miles from Selma to Montgomery to petition Governor George Wallace for free voter registration for black Americans. The violence and impediment by local law enforcement against the marchers drew outrage from the nation and required National Guard intervention to protect the activists. They were joined by thousands of people from across the country on their journey, and their efforts are considered to be a significant contribution to the successful Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Steven Reed acknowledged the importance of his city in the history of Alabama, the U.S., and the civil rights movement.
"Montgomery is a city with limitless potential, a city that has no limits outside of our imagination," Mayor-elect Reed said. "The only thing that can hold us back is our fears. When we come together there's nothing that we can't accomplish."
Reed defeated his opponent David Woods, who owns FOX affiliate WCOV-TV, with 67% of the votes in Tuesday's runoff election.
"Montgomery is a special place populated by special people and that hasn’t changed," Woods said after conceding the election. "And we’re just going to go forward and try to support Steven Reed as mayor. And I just want to encourage everyone to try to continue to work together to bring Montgomery as a unified city."