Georgia was well-represented at the Democratic National Convention in July and one of the party’s brightest stars, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, had a prime speaking role at the coronation of Hillary Clinton.
Reed was among several party leaders —including state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams — lined up to speak at the four-day convention in Philadelphia.
For the uninitiated, here are five things to know about the two-term mayor of Georgia’s capitol city.
1. Political path started early
At the age of 29, Reed was elected to the Georgia General Assembly in 1998. In 2002, he was elected to the state Senate.
He could have remained in office forever. But he kept his eyes on Atlanta. He served as Mayor Shirley Franklin’s campaign manager in 2001 and 2005 and co-chaired her transition team when she first took office.
He entered the 2009 race for Atlanta mayor as the clear underdog, polling third in many early polls. Yet, he elected Atlanta’s 59th mayor.
When he was re-elected for his 2nd term in 2013, he garnered 95 percent of the vote.
2. Reed the pugilist
The Atlanta mayor, known for his verbal dust ups, is a big fan of boxing, particularly Muhammad Ali. His first name, Mohammed, is influenced by the late, great boxer.
Mohammed Kasim Reed was born in June 1969 in the middle of Ali’s ban for refusing to serve in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Reed’s father, who also boxed, saw a principled man of strength in Ali.
“My father had seen Bobby Kennedy, President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King assassinated and so it was a time when he was very concerned about the direction of the country and so my name was influenced by that moment. So when I would go to school as a boy, at Utoy Springs Elementary School … my name was acceptable because of Muhammad Ali. I can’t tell you what that meant.”
Reed’s City Hall office is adorned with books and photos of Ali. When Ali died earlier this summer, Reed ordered all flags on city buildings to be lowered to half-staff.
3. Bison for life
Reed earned his undergrad and law degrees from the prestigious Howard University.
He picked Howard early after reading about Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who attended the HBCU in the 1930s. Reed has said that Howard is “the biggest influencer in my life besides my faith in God and my family.”
Ironically, it was at Howard in Washington, D.C. where Reed first worked with former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young.
Young was on the board of trustees and Reed was the board’s student representative.
Reed pitched an idea to Young to have students vote to pay a small fee on their bill each semester to help build the school’s endowment. The money would be matched by a federal matching grant to. Young said it wouldn’t work. But $12.5 million later, Young had a message for the young Reed, “Come back to Atlanta and run for something.”
4. The family man
Reed came into office single, but will leave the head of a growing family.
True to form, Reed keeps his private life private.
“Today, Sarah-Elizabeth Reed and I are blessed to announce the birth of our first child, Maria Kristan Reed,” Reed said in a statement.
No prior wedding announcement had been made, although he announced in March 2014 that he was engaged and that the couple was expecting.
“I could not feel more blessed that she agreed to marry me, and we look forward to building a family together in the greatest city in America,” Reed said then. “I am honored to have our friends and family share this special moment with us and I ask that our privacy is respected as we celebrate this personal occasion.”
5. Party loyalist
During his days in the General Assembly, Reed was part of the Democratic minority – often on the losing team.
But he stayed loyal to the party.
As his tenure in office nearly overlaps that of Barack Obama’s two terms in the White House, Reed has been one of his most vocal surrogates.
His name was often whispered on shortlists of cabinet position openings.
The loyalty has now transferred to that of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom Reed has supported for the office from day one. And again, there were whispers. This time of him being her running mate.
That is likely not happening, but his loyalty has earned him a spot at the convention.
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