Earnest L. Reese, Jr.
A trailblazer in journalism will be laid to rest Wednesday.
Henry County resident Earnest L. Reese, Jr., was hired by the Atlanta Constitution as a full-time sportswriter in 1974. He became the first black full-time sportswriter, and one of the first blacks at a major daily newspaper in the Deep South.
During his 29 years on the paper’s sports staff, Reese won 12 national and state awards.
In 1986, he was one of three writers on the staff to win the Associated Press Sports’ Editors’ first place award for an eight-part series entitled “Run for Respect.” That composition addressed the role athletics has played in integrating southern society. Reese retired from the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 2002.
Reese was born July 6, 1941, in Jackson, Miss., where he was also raised.
Reese graduated from Alcorn State in 1963 and served as a teacher and coach in Greenwood, Miss., for one year. While working in Greenwood, he met and married his wife of 47 years, the former Artelia Jones. The couple had two children Regina, 46, and Renford, 44.
Reese’s funeral service is scheduled for Wednesday, at 11 a.m., in the Shiloh Baptist Church, 262 Macon St., in McDonough. Visitation is scheduled for Tuesday, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Lemon Funeral Home, located at 300 Griffin St., in McDonough.
Reese died in his McDonough home on March 29, leaving behind a legacy of achievements he and his children have created in the Henry community.
His wife is a former Henry County assistant principal, and was the first black educator to be named Teacher of the Year, and was a STAR teacher of the year for five years.
His daughter, Regina Tate, has two master’s degrees, one from Clemson University in Human Resource Development and another from Luther Rice Seminary and Bible University, in Christian Counseling. She has worked as an engineer for International Paper in Georgetown, S.C., and as an engineer for BellSouth in the same city, where she was the only African-American female engineer, when she was hired.
She said one of her most fondest moments spent with her father was during a trip to the store as a youngster.
“When I was about nine or 10, I saw some candy I wanted, I only had a dime and the candy cost a quarter,” said Regina. “He laughed and told me I was getting to be expensive.” She now works as the executive assistant to Shiloh Baptist Church Pastor E.W. Lee.
Regina is the mother of Reese’s grandson, Braelon, 7.
“He was my father’s pride and joy,” said Regina. “He always tried to teach Braelon everything. He finally got smart in telling his grandfather what he wanted to hear.
“Daddy would pay him to do chores. Daddy would manufacture reasons to give Braelon money. He didn’t think that [my husband, Al Tate] and I were capable of being parents, and we would have to remind him, ‘Daddy, he belongs to us.’ He forgot that he trained us and taught us,” she added. The couple has been married for 17 years.
Reese’s attention to his grandson mirrored that he gave his son, Renford.
“I had the best childhood anyone could imagine,” said Renford Reese. “I had the opportunity to go into the locker rooms of the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Braves, Georgia Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
“I had a chance to meet the most popular athletes, such as Hank Aaron, Dominique Wilkins, Herschel Walker, Dr. J. — Julius Erving, Jim Brown and Evander Holyfield.
“When he [Reese] came home from work it was our time,” said his son. “We threw the football together, we played baseball, and basketball. We played cards while he told me didactic stories about discipline and having focus as well as looking at the big picture.”
Renford lettered in four sports, and was the president of the 1985 Henry County High School student body. Renford said he was the first Henry County athlete in 20 years to get a football scholarship to a major university. He holds a doctorate degree.
“That is because my father coached, trained and groomed me as a scholar, and as an athlete,” said the younger Reese. “That is why I ended up going to the best school for a student-athlete in the South, Vanderbilt University.”
Renford has written five books and has worked as a college professor for 16 years at Cal Poly Pomona University. He has traveled to 63 countries, and was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Hong Kong.
Renford’s quote — “Insensitivity makes arrogance ugly; empathy is what makes humility beautiful” — was printed on thousands of Starbucks Coffee Company cups, and for that he credited his father’s support.