Montgomery, a city where more than half the population is black and known as the birthplace of the civil rights movement, elected an African American to the highest position in municipal government for the first time in its 200-year history.
Montgomery County probate judge Steven Reed defeated television station owner David Woods in a runoff election on Tuesday, according to unofficial returns. He will be sworn into office Nov. 12 at Montgomery City Hall.
Reed was the first African American elected as the county’s probate judge in 2012. In 2015, he was the first probate judge in Alabama to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
“This election has never been about me,” Reed said in his victory speech. “This election has never been about just my ideas. It’s been about all the hopes and dreams we have as individuals and collectively in this city.”
David Woods, Reed’s opponent, told his supporters while conceding, “Going forward, we would have made Montgomery, the city of your dreams. And it is a great city. I think it’ll still be a great city because the people who were here yesterday are here today, and they’ll be here tomorrow. And as I continuously say, Montgomery is a special place populated by special people.
“And that hasn’t changed. And we’re just going to go forward and we’ll try to support Steven Reed as mayor. And I just want to encourage everyone just to try to continue to work together to bring Montgomery into a unified city. You know, a unified Montgomery is a lot stronger than a divided Montgomery. And we just want to go forward in a sense of unity.”
Montgomery is one of only three cities in six Deep South states with a population of 100,000 or more that had not previously elected an African American as mayor. Beginning in the late 1960s, the election of first black mayors in Cleveland, Ohio, Newark, New Jersey, Detroit, Michigan, Gary, Indiana, and Los Angeles manifested black power, said Derryn Eroll Moten, chairman of Alabama State University’s Department of History and Political Science.