Sadly, Atlanta politician and Black activist Reginald Eaves passed away Tuesday, June 9 at 81 after a series of health ailments.
Eaves heeded the call for Black activism at an early age and was called “Mr. Civil Rights” by his fellow students at Morehouse College. This activism led to four unidentified City of Atlanta police officers “visiting” Eaves at night to order him to “leave the city permanently or suffer dire consequences.”
Eaves went on to rise through the Atlanta political power system when Morehouse College classmate Maynard Jackson was elected the city’s first Black mayor. Jackson first appointed Eaves as a political advisor and assistant and then later named him public safety commissioner in 1974. In his role as the cities “Top Cop,” Eaves lacked traditional law enforcement experience but was able to reduce violent crime in the city’s black neighborhoods. His actions such as assigning foot patrols to high crime areas and community policing was ahead of its time and received coverage in Time magazine. But his tenure was also controversial as Eaves was accused of preferential treatment for Black officers in hiring and on the job.
Jackson fired Eaves from this position but years later, Eaves would reappear on the scene as a member of the Fulton County Commission. As a commissioner, Eaves wielded considerable power and influence and paved the way for up-and-coming Black businessman and politicians. One of these politicians is John H. Eaves, the Chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, who is also the nephew of Reginald Eaves. Chairman Eaves wrote the following about his uncle in a press release:
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I bring to you news of an extremely personal loss for me. Many of you know Reginald Eaves as a former Fulton County Commissioner and the first African-American to serve as public safety commissioner for the City of Atlanta. I knew him as my uncle, mentor and confidante. Today, I learned that after several major health setbacks in recent months, my Uncle Reginald has died. I was at his bedside, along with his siblings, at the time my Uncle Reginald passed. He was 81 years old.
Reginald Eaves was a gregarious man who lived his life to the fullest. He was a proud public servant and, more importantly, a proud family man. He was a sounding board upon whom I leaned on many occasions. Any place I had been or anything I had achieved in my life, Uncle Reginald had achieved before.
This loss is a huge one for my family. My uncle is part of the reason I wanted to enter the realm of public service. He cared about making the community around us a better place. He loved his family, he loved life and he loved the City of Atlanta, his adopted hometown.”