MONTGOMERY, Ala. – In the two centuries since its founding, Montgomery, Alabama, has never had a black mayor. That could soon change.
Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed faced off Tuesday against TV station owner David Woods in a mayoral run-off election to take leadership of the majority-black city. If elected, Reed would become the first black mayor of Montgomery since the city was founded in 1819.
“Once again, we as Montgomerians have an opportunity to start a new chapter in our city’s history – all with the cast of a single ballot,” Reed said Tuesday morning on Facebook. “As you head to the polls, remember that you have the power to choose the leadership that reflects your values, your beliefs, and the great city we call home.”
Sixty percent of Montgomery’s roughly 200,000 residents are black or African-American, according to the US Census.
Longtime resident Diana Stokes Williams told CNN she had marched during the civil rights movement, been through segregation and was “very aware of the prejudice that has existed in her community.”
“Coming from Montgomery … where there’s been a lot, Alabama’s been full of lot of prejudice , and to go from (former Alabama Gov.) George Wallace to Reed would be a major step.”
Williams said she voted in every election and it is important to have someone who looks like Reed represent the community.
She said as a black man, Reed has a greater perspective on life in Montgomery and can see both sides. She added that she hoped Reed would represent all races.
Alabama’s second-largest city and its capital, Montgomery was also the first capital of the Confederacy early in the Civil War, and many streets and schools still bear Confederate names.
Montgomery later became the site of Rosa Parks’ famed bus boycott in 1955 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dexter Avenue Baptist church, as well as the destination of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery protest marches that met with brutal police violence and led to the Voting Rights Act.
The nation’s first memorial to the more than 4,000 victims of lynchings, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, opened last year in Montgomery.
Candidate touts role as first black probate judge
Reed and Woods received the most votes in August in the city’s 12-person mayoral primary, leading to Tuesday’s run-off. Reed got 42% of the vote, while Woods earned about 25%, CNN affiliate WSFA reported.
Reed was elected in 2012 as a probate judge in Montgomery County, becoming the first African-American and youngest person to do so, his website says.
Woods is the owner and president of Woods Communications, which owns local television station WCOV, a CNN affiliate.
Todd Strange, Montgomery’s mayor since 2009, is not running for reelection.