NAPLES, FLA — During a month when we typically honor well-known members of the Black community, FOX 4 wanted to make sure we also highlighted some local Black history, that you may not know about.
On January 20, 2021, a day when the nation's attention was captivated by the capital.
Another important proclamation was being made, courtesy of Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann:
"January 20, 2021 to be designated as a Charles McKinley Reynolds Jr. Day," she said.
To understand the honor and the man at the center of it all, his wife Reesa Reynolds says you have to go back to 1937.
"He had most unusual beginnings. Because he came from Albany, Georgia, and Albany, Georgia, for the south, had a very interesting dynamic,” she said.
Mrs. Reynolds says Charles grew up knowing the sting of racism, but without some of its harshest barbs.
"The [Ku Klux] Klan didn't come into Albany. They didn't experience a lot of things that other southern cities experienced,” she said.
And equally as unusual at that time, was the fact that he came from a family that held degrees in higher education.
"It was something for him to emulate,” she said.
To say he emulated them, would be an understatement.
Over the next 83 years of life, Reynolds Jr. would go on to join the U.S. Air force, graduate from Morehouse College, work as a teacher, as the First Assistant National Bank Examiner in the South, and run several businesses, all over the country.
"He was a very humble man,” she said.
And he did it all while volunteering regularly, loving on his family, and running the Foundation for Residential and Rehabilitative Services, which among other things is tasked with providing grants and internships to young black students who are interested in science, tech, engineering, and math.
"He said [it was] because the future is going to be technologically driven,” Mrs. Reynolds said.
Mrs. Reynolds says he also mentored anyone in his line of sight. And even developed an acronym to help make things easier.
"RICE was like his mantra. Respect for self and others. Integrity, doing the right thing when no one is looking. Competency, always being competent. Doing the best that you can in what you do. And excellence. He didn't accept less than excellence from anyone, because he didn't accept it from himself,” she said.
It's a philosophy that served him and many mentees well over the years and Mrs. Reynolds says it's one that carried him through several battles with cancer.
And after beating it each time, in 2020, it came back and fast, moving from his pancreas to his liver by the end of the year.
"And he said he had his talk with God, and he had come to the conclusion that it was not going to be much longer. He told me to be strong,” she said.
And even while facing the end, head-on, Mrs. Reynolds says her husband, ever the mentor, taught the "RICE" method to hospital staff.
"I remember coming in and there were two physical therapists in there one day. And he says 'Well young lady what are you going to do with this physical therapy? I have a friend that has five physical therapy centers. I think you need to go back and get a higher degree,” she said, "And I just found it fascinating that even that he was always, even then, concerned about other people and them reaching their goals and exceeding their goals and using 'RICE' to do it."
Reynolds passed away on December 26, 2020.
But not before making a mark on everyone he met and every place he went. And not before making a final request of his foundation, which was inspired by his own health battle.
"He said if Charles Drew can come up with plasma there should be some, especially doctors and scientists of color, who can come up with pain therapy that will cure and not mask pain in patients who are suffering," she said.
And Mrs. Reynolds says he also didn't leave without giving one final lesson to her, that she says she'll carry with her...Forever.
"He taught me, love,” she said.
To learn more about the Foundation for Residential and Rehabilitative Services and how to get involved in its mission, Mrs. Reynolds asks that you email her at email@example.com.