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Lt. Colonel Reeves & Linden Bateman

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Reginald Reeves, Local Hero

Still Giving After a Life of Service

Article by Linden Bateman

Photography by University of Idaho + Provided

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

I first met Reginald Reeves in 1953 when my 8th grade buddy Kent Misseldine convinced me to visit Reeves at his law office to see his stamp collection.  We were two unannounced and unkempt 13-year-old kids, and I was instantly impressed by the generosity of this man who altered his busy schedule to talk about the educational value of stamp collecting.  I was even more impressed when I discovered that he paid my friend Bud Cheney three silver dollars to mow his lawn when the going rate was one dollar!

From the days of his youth, the generous and selfless disposition of Idaho Falls attorney Reginald Reeves has been fixed upon the needs of others.  In 1950, during Reginald’s second year at the University of Idaho College of Law, Army General Omar Bradley issued a plea to the American people asking for blood donations to meet the urgent needs of soldiers wounded or injured during rising combat operations in the Korean War.  Inspired to action, Reginald helped organize the first college blood drive in American history, and then gave his first pint of blood.  Every dormitory on campus had a station for donation, and each floor in every dormitory, fraternity, and sorority house had a place to donate blood.  A competition was organized between dormitories and floors and then, through student newspapers, between colleges and universities throughout America.  The University of Idaho came in second in the nation, just behind Harvard University.

Starting with that first pint in 1950, Reginald has continued to give blood throughout his life, reaching an astounding total of 50 gallons donated by 2020, which surely must be a state record, and an amount which potentially could save 1200 military and civilian lives.  I assumed he would discontinue giving blood after reaching that lofty goal, but was mistaken.  Even now, at 94 years old, he continues to give blood every 56 days.  Reginald Reeves gives life. 

Blood and life are not all Reginald has given.  He founded the Sun Valley Charitable Foundation through which humanitarian aid has been provided to destitute and impoverished individuals in Boise, ten eastern Idaho counties, two in southwestern Montana, two in southwestern Wyoming, and several foreign countries.  Millions of dollars of donated items were gathered from businesses and individuals, including medicine, medical equipment, personal care products, food, clothing, household goods, eye glasses, computers, books, toys, and other items for distribution to homeless shelters, nursing homes, domestic violence centers, low income housing, senior citizen centers, veteran organizations, schools, and Indian reservations.  Nineteen volunteers assisted in the collection and distribution of goods to over 2000 individuals and 500 families every week.  Hundreds of computers were sent to schools within the United States and developing nations.  Medical and hospital equipment were sent to the US Virgin Islands, Nepal, Vietnam, Kosovo, and Guatemala.

Lt. Colonel Reeves also served his nation, state and community through a life long association with the military.  Volunteering during World War II at age 17, he eventually became a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserves.  He was a platoon leader in the 382nd Infantry Regiment, taught ROTC at the University of Idaho, and Military Government at the Presidio in San Francisco.  In Idaho Falls, Reeves worked closely with Captain Jerry Wadsworth and the Navy League in the promotion of patriotic events.  The two men co-founded the elite “Cedar Badge” program for the area Boy Scout Council.

Reg once told me he never made much money as a lawyer because he spent so much time doing charity work.  During a visit a few years ago, I noticed the time capsule 1960’s vintage décor of his Cambridge Street law office.  Reg read my mind and simply said he never had enough money to modernize.

Born in Greensboro, North Carolina to James H. and Ellen Boyd Reeves, Reg’s father was a butcher, but eventually operated a billiard parlor after losing a hand.  His mother was an elementary school teacher.  A child prodigy, Reginald started school in the 3rd grade at the age of 4.  He received a degree in Mathematics with honors from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College.  Deciding to study law, he applied to and was accepted by the University of Idaho College of Law, which had the lowest tuition in the country. School officials did not realize he was Black, however, and according to Reginald, soon after required all law school applicants to supply a photograph.  Reginald was the only Black student in the law school and remembers only one other Black student at the university.  He was not invited to join a legal fraternity. 

Discrimination was nothing new for Reginald.  At age 17 he was arrested for sitting on a city bus in a section reserved for whites. He was invited to join the law firm of Alvin Denman in Idaho Falls, but upon arrival in town, no hotel would give him a room nor would certain fraternal organizations allow him to attend meetings.  He continued to experience discrimination, sometimes directly but more often subtlety, yet miraculously never became bitter.  Dignified and elegant in personality and presence, his life was dedicated to service. 

As an attorney, Reginald annually donated over 180 hours of pro bono legal work for veterans.  He served on many prominent commissions and councils, including the Idaho State Mental Health Advisory Council, Governor’s Child Support Enforcement Commission, and the Idaho Commission of the Art and Humanities.  For 12 years he played clarinet in the Idaho Falls Symphony without compensation.  His numerous awards and medals cannot all be listed, but include the national first place Nathan Burkan Memorial Award for an article on copyright law; three major military awards for public service, including one from the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Idaho State Bar Outstanding Service Award; University of Idaho Alumni Hall of Fame; and the American Red Cross Heroes Award. 

Reginald Reeves has long since retired from his office on Cambridge Avenue, but he is still giving.  Sixty-eight years after our first meeting, he recently gave me the original stamp collection he showed me in 1953. 

"Even now, at 94 years old, he continues to give blood every 56 days."

  • Photo Credit: University of Idaho
  • Idaho Falls 1953 with Mayor and Police Chief
  • University of Idaho, College of Law Bench & Bar Club
  • Lt. Colonel Reeves & Linden Bateman