Roy Reed, a 1964 Nieman Fellow who covered the civil rights movement for The New York Times, died December 10 in Fayetteville, Arkansas after suffering a stroke. He was 87.
Reed spent much of his career at the Times, where he worked from 1965 until 1978, reporting from the South, covering momentous events in the struggle for civil rights. He wrote the page one story—and took the photo that ran with it—from Selma, Alabama on February 5, 1965 when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was released after spending several days in jail for trying to lead a voting-rights protest. Just a month later, he was present on what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” when state troopers, cheered on by white spectators, attacked black marchers (led by John Lewis) on Selma’s Pettus Bridge with batons, whips, and tear gas. Former Times executive editor Abe Rosenthal described Reed as the paper’s best writer.
Born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Reed studied journalism at the University of Missouri and—after two years serving in the U.S. Air Force—began his journalism career at The Globe in Joplin, Missouri, where he worked from 1954 to 1956 before joining The Arkansas Gazette. Hired by The New York Times shortly after his Nieman year, he was first based in Atlanta before joining the newspaper’s Washington bureau in 1966 to cover national politics and the White House. In 1969, he returned to the South to work from New Orleans and spent his last years at the Times working as a London-based correspondent.
After leaving the Times, Reed moved back to Arkansas, teaching journalism at the University of Arkansas, and wrote several books, including “Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal” (1997) a biography of former Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, and a memoir, “Beware of Limbo Dancers: A Correspondent’s Adventures with The New York Times” (2012). He also continued to write advance obituaries for the Times.
Reed is survived by his wife, Norma, as well as a son, daughter, and five grandchildren.