So the Henrico County School Board is soliciting names for “a west area elementary school” to open next year? Consider this a nomination.

How about naming that new school on Pouncey Tract Road in honor of Dr. William Ferguson Reid?

Reid, who has lived on Francistown Road in western Henrico since 1965, remains a seminal figure in Virginia history — the first African-American elected to the Virginia General Assembly since the end of the Reconstruction era.

Reid was elected to the House of Delegates in 1967, representing Richmond and Henrico County until 1973. Two years after Reid made history, L. Douglas Wilder won a special election to the Virginia Senate en route to his signature achievement of becoming the nation’s first elected black governor.

You could argue that Wilder’s path — and that of Richmond’s first black mayor, Henry L. Marsh III — would have been more difficult, if not impossible, without the groundwork laid by Reid.

During the mid-1950s, Reid co-founded the Richmond Crusade for Voters with Dr. William S. Thornton and John Mitchell Brooks to register and mobilize black voters during Massive Resistance.

The Crusade came of age in an era of poll taxes, literacy tests and other mechanisms to weaken black political clout. The entrenched Byrd political machine stood in defiance of change.

“It was obvious that the only way to get things changed was to put politicians in there who would obey the laws,” Reid said in a 1991 interview. read more…