Rachel Janie Reeves, who surpassed gender norms and became the first female publisher and chief executive of The Miami Times, died on Thursday, September 12. She was 69.
Rachel Reeves grew up in a family of trailblazers and was not afraid of gender being a deterrent to accomplish her goals. Rachel was a determined achiever.
Born May 22, 1950, Rachel Reeves had a sibling Garth Reeves, Jr., who preceded her in death in 1982. With her father unconsciously grooming her for the role, she catapulted to the top as the publisher of The Miami Times.
Rachel Reeves was a decisive decision-maker and collaborator in the many accomplishments at The Miami Times. She was a visionary who developed others in the completion of her task. Rachel had a critical eye for good work and high-quality performance. Rachel kept a watchful eye on readership trends and noticed that The Miami Times readers still wanted their newspaper. She made the broadsheet larger than all the broadsheets in South Florida and encouraged the paper's designer to create bold, colorful designs.
Rachel could be relied on to give accurate feedback. As she strived to be a"game-changer,"; she possessed a humanitarian spirit and understood the needs in the community. Rachel cared about all who had the pleasure of meeting and knowing her.
As news of her death rippled through the community Friday, her closet friends expressed shock, grief, admiration, and fond memories. Publisher of the South Florida Times Robert Beatty said he lost his best friend. He met Rachel shortly after he moved to South Florida from Detroit. Rachel became godmother to Beatty's daughter, Victoria. He is godfather to Rachel's son, Garth Basil.
"We formed a bond of friendship and love," he said. What Beatty admired the most about her was her business acumen and the brilliance she displayed managing The Miami Times.
He describes her as a formidable, strong, and aggressive manager, necessary ingredients in a male-dominated, competitive publishing world. Rachel would navigate the paper through the effects of the end of Jim Crow.
"I admired the great passion that led her to extend, expand and grow the legacy of her father and grandfather, and now her legacy," said Beatty. "Her ability to manage that business, to understand the dynamics of that business were second to none. There aren't many who have the courage to follow in her footsteps. She managed that paper in a tough industry, tougher for a woman at the helm. That did not deter one iota; she could match wits and brilliance and business acumen with the best of them."
"Journalist in South Florida should be proud that she assumed the helm for as long as she did because she helped to define the Black media in this nation. Her loss saddens me to no end."
Saddened too was Miami-Dade Commission Chair Audrey Edmonson, who called Rachel Reeves a "cherished friend and a community icon."
She said the turning point of their friendship was when they formed a group called the "Sweet Potatoes."
Too many stories of laughter and tears to share, but a lifetime of memories to cherish," Edmonson said Friday. "She led Miami's largest African America Newspaper in the South, providing relevant news and information to the community with grace. This community mourns her passing."
Cynthia Curry had known Rachel before she became a publisher. Curry's friendship with Rachel spanned over 30 years. She said Rachel was “a ray of warm, loving light."
Brian Dennis, the newspaper's Word on the Street columnist, used to write frequent letters to the editor. She gave him a bigger platform, Dennis said.
"She was a smart businesswoman because she allowed me to stop submitting letters to the editor and told the editor to give me space in the paper. The Black community has lost a great champion," Dennis said.
Rachel studied English literature at Bennett College in North Carolina but had no interest in news writing the way her brother did. She stuck to the newspaper's operational side, starting as a typesetter, then moving to advertising clerk and bookkeeper before becoming the business manager.
Rachel would proudly mention to the circulation staff "Circulation was my job. I built circulation." The Miami Times staff recalls her ability to be direct, however engaging and would listen to each idea and concept which would advance The Miami Times. Because of Rachel's leadership and the leadership of her predecessors, The Miami Times have stood the test of time. The Miami Times, a community institution has not missed an edition since 1923.
Rachel Reeves' survivors include her father Garth C. Reeves, Sr., son, Garth Basil, and other relatives and friends.
Rachel Reeves has left us a void in her absence, but not without a remarkable legacy in the Miami community. May her vision live on in the continued existence of The Miami Times.