Pastor Receives Prestigious Award

By M. Patterson |  May 10, 2013

Oklahoma City Pastor, religious and community leader, Reverend Doctor John A. Reed, Jr., was recently honored as the first African American to receive the prestigious Howard K. Berry Sr. Award.  The presentation was made at the Oklahoma County Bar Association’s (OCBA) Law Day Luncheon held at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City on May 1. 

This year’s luncheon theme was Realizing the Dream: Equality for All, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  An array of legal, judicial and political personalities from the local, state and federal level were in attendance at the event at which the Honorable Tom Colbert, Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, served as the featured Guest Speaker.

The award is named in honor of the late Howard K. Berry, Sr., long-time Oklahoma County Attorney, and is meant to recognize exceptional individuals and charitable groups in Oklahoma County who make significant contributions to advancing justice, the justice system and the principles of the U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Although the award recipient need not be an attorney or employed in the legal profession or the Justice System, the winner’s achievement or contribution must advance the charitable purposes of the Oklahoma County Bar Foundation (OCBF) to advance the cause of Justice, equal access to justice for all and/or the improvement of the Justice system. 

The winner of the award is selected by the Board of the OCBF from the nominations received without any action on the part of the nominee to seek the award.  Reverend Doctor Reed’s nomination was made by a member of the Oklahoma and Oklahoma County Bar, at the urging of Howard K. Berry, Jr., the son of the Sr. Berry.  The nominator’s statement referred to numerous aspects of Dr. Reed’s involvement in the fight for justice stating he “is a minister first.  His focus is always spiritual but also about the betterment of man.  Day in and out, he is there for individual members of his congregation and his community.” 

Reverend Reed was painted as a fighter for justice for the people of Oklahoma, being a person who seeks to make changes so those who come behind him will have a successful path.  The proposer tracked Dr. Reed’s involvement in the civil rights struggle from his teenage years in Stillwater, Oklahoma, through his early days as a young pastor in Oklahoma City as President of the Coalition of Civic Leadership, and other involvements over the past 50 or more years.  Key points were:  his role in ending segregation in the state of Oklahoma; his role in seeking justice for and in support of others; his being arrested and jailed during the Oklahoma City Sanitation Workers Strike; his role in the Oklahoma Bombing relief effort, leading the clergy in Oklahoma City in developing a Relief Fund for the victims of the Murrah Building bombing; his role in saving an educational institution, speaking from the pulpit and in the halls of the State Capitol to save Langston University; his role in creation of a newspaper, seeking to have a positive media voice to communicate accomplishments of Oklahoma City’s Black people and community, thereby becoming the founding editor of The Ebony Tribune and currently The Oklahoma City Herald.

Dr. Reed was presented as a role model in the fight for justice, human rights achievement, and leadership.  The nomination read, “What makes Reverend Reed rise from among others is that he has used his positions to heighten the local, state, and national level of awareness to the plight of others and to be an agent of change to better the environments in which others must exist.  He has made justice for others his life work.  His motto epitomizes what a fighter for justice should be:  ‘If I can help somebody, then my living will not have been in vain!’.”