Reeves, Rachel J. 1950(?)–
Rachel J. Reeves 1950(?)–
As publisher and chief executive officer, Rachel J. Reeves heads the largest African American newspaper in the South, the Miami Times. Founded by her grandfather in 1923, the Times has been in the hands of Reeves descendants—one of the most prominent African American families in the Miami area—since then, although they have sometimes struggled to keep the paper in business. Reeves assumed the top job at the Times in 1992 after the untimely death of her brother, and had to battle gender prejudices in her own family in order to do so. She oversees a weekly paper that is considered a community institution in Miami proper, as well as the greater metropolitan area of Dade County, for its longtime service to the region’s large African American population. The Times is a reflection of the Reeves family’s own values and political beliefs, celebrating educational and professional achievements while covering local politics with a far more in-depth, decisive editorial stance than other media outlets in Miami.
Reeves was born into a family with a long legacy of community activism. Her grandfather, Henry Reeves, was an immigrant from the Bahamas and a printer by profession who arrived in Miami in 1919. He founded the Miami Times in 1923 as a sideline to his printing business, and the paper soon became the voice of the city’s African American community, who were restricted to an area known as Overtown. His son, Garth, became involved in both businesses in the years following World War II, but also followed his father’s example by making wise real estate investments. Such financial strategies paid off handsomely as the Miami area grew, and Garth Reeves often used these funds to keep the Times afloat during lean years.
Rachel Reeves was born in the early 1950s. During her Idhood years, her father was also a prominent civil rights activist who fought to change the “Jim Crow” laws that kept African Americans and whites segregated in the South. During her teenage years, Reeves worked at the Miami Times as a typesetter, then went on to major in English literature at North Carolina’s Bennett College. Despite possessing a literary degree, Reeves never wrote for the paper. Instead, she worked in the paper’s advertising and bookkeeping offices during the 1970s. Like her brother, Reeves received only minimum wage—part of their father’s attempt to instill a work ethic among his offspring.
Reeves’s brother was the heir apparent of the Miami Times, and was slated to take over when his father retired. However, in 1982, Garth Jr., died of colon cancer at the age of 30. Reeves’s father considered selling the paper, but she convinced him to give her a position of leadership. “Really, I thought at one time of hanging it up,” Garth Reeves Sr. told the Miami Herald’s Tananarive Due. “I guess I’m a chauvinist, because I didn’t think Rachel could handle it.” However, he eventually realized that his late son had often sought Rachel’s opinion concerning the management of the
Born c. 1950; daughter of Garth Reeves (a newspaper publisher); two children. Education: Earned a bachelor’s degree in literature from Bennett College.
Career: Miami Times, Miami, FL, began as typesetter; became advertising clerk, then business manager; named publisher and chief executive officer, 1992-.
Addresses: Office—Miami Times, 900 NW 54th St, Miami, FL 33127.
Miami Times. As the elder Reeves recalled, his name-sake “would never give me a direct answer—’Let me think about it, Dad. I’ll be back,’” he told Due. “And he’d walk out of here and walk into Rachel’s office. Rachel gives him the answers, a half-hour later he comes back and says, ‘I’ve been thinking about it, I think we should do this.’”
Still, Reeves knew that she had much to learn about running a major newspaper. As she told Due in the Miami Herald, “I never, ever thought I would have to play this role. I didn’t want it. I really didn’t.” Reeves first served as the business manager of the Times before advancing to the position of chief executive officer and executive editor in 1992. She took over a weekly newspaper that is considered one of the top 20 African American newspapers in the nation. It still earns professional awards for its civil rights reporting. “The paper’s growth and lasting appeal is a function of tradition and circumstances,” wrote the Herald’s Due. “At a time when black life was nearly invisible in the mainstream, the early Miami Times and other black newspapers were the community’s only looking glass.”
In June of 1991 Reeves was attending a newspaper convention in Atlanta, and was in her hotel room playing with her young son when she realized that she was having difficulty speaking. She had suffered a mild stroke, and was struck by another one the following March. After several months of recuperation, Reeves had completely regained her health.
Under Reeve’s tenure, the Miami Times has continued to celebrate the achievements of the African American community in south Florida. It has also addressed sensitive racial topics. In recent years, the paper’s editorial stance has become increasingly resolute on racial matters, and as Due noted, has “a reputation for tackling local racial issues in unconventional ways.” Under the leadership of managing editor and longtime staff writer Mohamed Hamaludin, the paper’s editorial opinions sometimes put it at odds with the economically and politically powerful Cuban American community in Dade County. One contentious feature in the Times has been a column called “Spreading Larceny,” which, as Due explained, “prints gossip on reported acts of racism in government and business, items that may or may not be completely factual. Not surprisingly, the column is widely read and widely criticized by its targets.”
At the Miami Times, Reeves is known as a no-nonsense boss. “My father is very laid back, which is a plus, and handles things very carefully,” she told Due. “I ain’t laid back at all. If something goes wrong, I want it straightened out.” Garth Reeves Sr. still keeps an office at the Times, from which he works as director of Tools for Change, an economic development group in Dade County. Both father and daughter were instrumental in rescuing Florida’s only African American-owned bank, the Peoples National Bank of Commerce, from financial trouble in 1997. They also actively support numerous charitable causes. Reeves still has disagreements with her father concerning management of the Miami Times. “You know how it is; you get angry, you back off,” she told Due. “With us, getting angry isn’t a problem. He gets mad at me. He throws me out of his office. I throw him out of mine.”
The Miami Times celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1998. Reeves hopes to expand the paper’s reach to reflect the more diverse demographics of south Florida. She also recognizes that the Times needs to attract more minority journalism graduates to its staff. As a single parent, Reeves often brings her young son to the office and lets him help out with odd jobs. In the 1980s, she decided to have a child on her own in order to carry on her father’s name, and disregards any outsider opinion concerning her choice. “I think my family has a lot to be proud of,” Reeves told Due, “and nobody’s going to make me feel bad about that. This little boy is here because it is very important that the Reeveses go on.”
Essence, April 1997.
Miami Herald, July 12, 1992, p. 1J; September 4, 1998, p. 1B.
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