Herbert O. Reid (j. 3/1954; d.2015) was a leading civil rights lawyer and brother of All Souls member Thelma Reid Whitehead (d. 1999) who served on the faculty of the Howard University School of Law for 41 years. He joined the law faculty at Howard in 1947, held an endowed chair there as the Charles Hamilton Houston distinguished professor of law, and was acting dean of the law school from 1972 to 1974 before retiring in 1988.
Reid participated in several landmark cases that helped dismantle racial segregation in public facilities, including the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case in which the Supreme Court declared segregation in the nation’s public schools to be unconstitutional. He also helped argue Representative Adam Clayton Powell’s case against his 1967 exclusion from the House of Representatives, winning a 1969 ruling from the Supreme Court that the barring of the Harlem Democrat from the House was unconstitutional because he met all legal requirements for the post and had been duly elected. In the late 1960s, he assisted in the defense of members of the Chicago Seven. And he served on a private commission that investigated relations between the nation’s police departments and the Black Panther Party during the early 1970s.
Reid was also a major player in the Barry administration and the mayor’s foremost personal troubleshooter. The two men met during the 1965 civil rights demonstrations in Selma, Ala., and they became close friends when Barry came to Washington as an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee soon after.
Reid received a bachelor’s degree with honors from Howard University and a law degree from Harvard University Law School in 1945. After serving in World War II with an all-black New York National Guard regiment and fighting in Okinawa, he became the first Black clerk for a justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Court.