As D.C. Mayor Marion Barry prepares to leave office, several tributes have been held for those who stood by him through thick and thin, most notably his wife, Effi, and his campaign manager, Anita Bonds.
But women weren't the only ones responsible for propping Barry up when he should have tumbled like Humpty Dumpty. Key among the brotherhood of supporters is Herbert O. Reid Sr., the D.C. corporation counsel and Barry's personal lawyer.
Reid will be feted at 7 p.m. Friday at the Sheraton- Washington Hotel. The dinner will kick off the Herbert O. Reid Sr. Scholarship Fund, to be established at Howard University Law School, where he taught for 43 years.
Regardless of what anyone thinks about Reid's efforts to keep the scandal-ridden Barry afloat, the tribute is richly deserved. As a masterful educator and legal scholar, Reid, 72, changed the political landscape of this nation by turning out lawyers such as Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and Illinois Comptroller Roland Burris.
More information on the dinner can be obtained by calling Queen Gladden at 727-1860.
When Barry was teetering on the brink of disaster during his last years in office, it was Reid who put his personal integrity on the line with attempts to assure Washington's black elite that Barry was only human, and not merely a thug.
Reid built his credibility as a lawyer working with Thurgood Marshall on litigation aimed at ending school segregation and successfully arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court for the right of Adam Clayton Powell to regain his seat in Congress.
Many wanted to believe that he was correct when he said that Barry had cleaned up his act. And no one was more disappointed than Reid to discover that, in the end, only the FBI could save Barry from himself.
Nevertheless, the two men had a history in the civil rights movement that was hard to match. Both had come up from small southern towns to make names for themselves in the nation's capital. While Barry dedicated himself to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Reid elected to take a back seat in the crucial, though unheralded, arena of civil rights law research.
For black law students, nothing could compare with Reid's classes at Howard's law school. And even today, Reid is quick to point out, there is nothing like the support that a black law school graduate gets from Howard.
"Blacks who graduate from white law schools often never hear from their classmates again," Reid said. "Many of them who wind up in this town end up networking with Howard students, which is to say they should have gone to Howard in the first place."
It is also an indication, Reid adds, that society has not opened up as much as some would like to believe.
As a visiting professor at Rutgers University for two years, Reid recalled, he could see that there was something different about the black students who studied law there.
"They had the knowledge, but many of them lacked motivation and very few had any racial consciousness," Reid said. "It was a world of difference from what you find at a school like Howard. It makes you wonder: Why turn our best minds over to white institutions?"
Of course, Reid adds, a student should feel free to study wherever he or she pleases.
"They can go to a white school, like I did, get trained and have a miserable experience," Reid said. "Or they can go to a black school and get the nurturing that they need."
Too often these days, he laments, civil rights lawyers are merely appendages of the corporate establishment who have no idea about the black communities on whose behalf they are filing lawsuits.
"We need more law students coming out of Howard," Reid said, hence the scholarship fund in his name.
Indeed, his former students are testimony to what a good school can produce. They include Judge Damon Keith of the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals, Judge Gabrielle McDonald of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, former Richmond mayor Henry Marsh, former National Urban League president Vernon Jordan and former D.C. corporation counsel Frederick D. Cooke Jr.
"Doug Wilder would never be governor of Virginia if he hadn't gone to Howard," Reid said. "He likes to say that he only came to Howard because he was refused admission to the University of Virginia, but it was Howard that made him the serious-minded and sensitive person that he has become."
If only Marion Barry could have enrolled in his classes . . . .