Wayne Law alum leads purposeful life Attorney, author preserves legacies

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– File Photo/Robert Chase

Detroit attorney Gregory J. Reed has represented civil rights icons, written award-winning books and preserved and exhibited priceless artifacts and legacies of African-American history — all part of his goal to lead a purposeful life.

“A man of strong faith, I have actively sought to keep my mind and heart open, and, as a result, I found many mentors, people I call angels, who have been willing to guide me from time to time or to pass on the baton of life that has allowed me to run in the race of life,” he said.

Reed earned his law degree from Wayne State University Law School in 1974 and his master of laws degree from Wayne in 1978.

He is the author of 16 books, including his latest — “Obama Talks Back: Global Lessons - A Dialogue with America’s Young Leaders,” which was awarded the 2013 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature and is nominated for a Phillis Wheatley 2013 book award. His 1994 book, “Economic Empowerment through the Church,” won a 1994 American Book Award.

A specialist in entertainment law, intellectual property law and tax law, Reed has served as attorney for civil rights icon Rosa Parks; Dr. Charles H. Wright, a noted obstetrician and civil rights activist for whom the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit is named; former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young; and famous sports figures including six world boxing champions. He also has helped many A-list singers, including Kid Rock, Aretha Franklin and Anita Baker, with their careers.

Along the way, he has collected and preserved artifacts and legacies of African-American historical significance, including slave papers, Motown memorabilia and the handwritten
notations of Malcolm X’s autobiography. Reed founded the nonprofit Keeper of the Word Foundation in 1996 to ensure that his collection will be passed on to future generations.

With a degree in packaging engineering from Michigan State Universtiy under his belt, Reed found himself limited in his ability to help others advance. So, he decided to go to law school, and chose Wayne, where he found mentors in professors Edward Littlejohn, Fredrica Lombard., John Mogk and Alan Schenk.

“They were good role models,” Reed said. “The environment was tough. There were only 15 African-Americans in the class, and only two of us graduated on time.”

As a child, Reed collected international stamps. As a law student, Reed started collecting slave papers.

“It dawned on me about preserving culture and legacies and how important it was to preserve art, culture and history in order to help others understand the importance of advancing humanity,” he said.

As a newly minted attorney, Reed became an agent for professional athletes and entertainers. In 1980, he was hired to help work out some tax planning for the Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman boxing event in Zaire. Then, he was drafted to resolve tax problems holding up a Detroit match featuring Thomas Hearns and Pepino Cuevas. Thereafter, Reed was appointed to negotiate the $30 million fight between Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard. That was a key point in Reed’s legal career. His reputation made, he went on to represent athletes and entertainers of the highest echelon for three decades, all the while maintaining his interest in collecting and preserving history.

In 1990, another key event in his life took place, seemingly out of the blue.

“Mrs. Rosa Parks walked into my office and asked me to be her attorney,” Reed said. “She was one of the most notable great persons I ever met, a saint above all who prepared me to be more humble in all of my affairs.”

Reed created a plan to resurrect her legacy, which was largely overlooked at the time, he said. With his guidance and promotion, Parks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal. A U.S. postage stamp was created in her honor, as was a museum in Montgomery, Ala.

Reed, who has helped to preserve the legacy of so many people, hopes his own legacy is one that helps to inspire all people, despite their circumstances.

“I have used the scarce resources of what I had to advance humanity despite the odds that were against me and so many others,” he said.

“My message to Detroit and to the world is that we must come together and live as one. We cannot allow the gains we have made to erode. Although we have a long way to go, I do believe that we can achieve Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for a better world. From time to time, I catch a glimpse of that world. I can see a world where children do not learn hatred in their homes. I can see a world where mothers and fathers have the last and most important word. I can see a world in which all adults protect the innocence of children. I can see a world in which people do not call each other names based on skin color. I can see a world free of acts of violence.

“I can see a world in which people of all races and all religions work together to improve the quality of life for everyone. If we will look to God and work together - not only here but everywhere — then others will see this world, too, and help to make it a reality.”
 

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