June 13, 2013
By KENNETH MILLER
Assistant Managing Editor
[Spread Love Wherever You Go. Let no one come to you without leaving happier. —MOTHER TERESA]
I’ve never met Mother Teresa or been in the same room with Nelson Mandela, but upon being in the presence of Byron K. Reed, I encountered a person spiritually touched, a man committed to fighting poverty, social injustice and improving the community around him.
Reed, the senior vice president and Wells Fargo Director of Community Relations for the Los Angeles Metro / Orange County Region, believes in providing Black males with an opportunity to change their lives.
After all, he learned from personal experience what could be achieved when tragedy struck and lives were on the line.
The son of a military father and one of seven children, Reed was faced with a circumstance that is all too familiar in African American families throughout America. In 1998, his niece called to tell him that their mother had not been home.
Donna had six children and the demons of drug addiction had robbed her of the capacity to care for them, but the fear of losing the children to foster care brought about an emergency family meeting.
The family assembled and it was decided that Reed was the best candidate to care for the six children, but his small one bedroom Arlington, Texas apartment was too small.
“We decided that we had a problem here. So collectively we decided who would be the best to take on this responsibility. My other sister was a teacher and couldn’t make the commitment, my other brothers (four) were married and had kids of their own, so I was the only one without any kids and had the financial means to do it,” Reed candidly explained during an interview at the Sentinel offices last week.
Subsequently he purchased a massive house that could accommodate the seven of them.
He believes getting his sisters children was a gift from God and that it was “his calling” to provide his nieces and nephews with a life of promise and fulfillment. Reed was willing to sacrifice his own goals of family for them.
“These are my kids even though I am not their biological father, they know that I love them and we talk on the phone every day now,” he said.
Reed’s story was profiled on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2005.
The oldest of the children, Nekesha Thomas (33) penned a letter to Winfrey praising her uncle and thanking him for the wonderful life he afforded her. Moved by their story, Oprah invited Reed and his family to the show for a segment and surprised him with the news that it was his nieces letter that inspired Winfrey.
It turned out to be one of the most emotional episodes of Oprah on network television and after watching it last week, I understand why.
Currently, Thomas is a nurse and married living in Grand Perry, Texas with her two children, Justin Reed (30) is a graduate of Oklahoma University and is currently working in Dallas, Marche Scott (25) is in nursing school in Dallas, Tiller Reed (23) is attending Richland College in Dallas, Lindsey Reed (21) is also attending nursing school and 17-year old Chad Reed is a 3.7 student and football star for Plano West and is being recruited by Oklahoma, SMU and TCU.
Their mother Donna Hayden, 55, is remarried and living a sober life.
Reed does not carry himself like a corporate executive; in fact I had to bashfully inquire if he was Byron K. Reed?
However, Reed is in fact one of the most powerful Black executives at Wells Fargo. He has amassed more than 25 years of banking experience in various areas including Trust Services, Consumer, Small Business, and Commercial Lending, Government Relations, Community Development, Global/Corporate Philanthropy and most recently in Consumer Real Estate.
He also serves on numerous boards, including Operation HOPE-Midwest Regional Board of Directors, LYCEM-Texas, Junior Achievement-Chicago, National Housing Conference Board of Governors, Fannie Mae Housing Impact Committee, LULAC National Housing Commission Advisory Board, Founding President of the 100 Black Men of Greater Dallas, Inc., the 100 Black Men of Chicago, and the Urban Financial Services Coalition Advisory Board.
He is also one of two Blacks on the board of advisors at the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of pubic affairs dedicated to social justice and equality of opportunity, something that Reed doesn’t need a platform for.
His enormous gift for his selfless service for humanity was formed from his Christian religious upbringing.
“My grandmother use to always say that charity begins at home,” added Reed.
Reed has traveled extensively and lived abroad while growing up due to his father’s military service.
He earned his BA in Political Science/Public Administration and a minor in Business Finance from the University of Oklahoma.
While a resident of Dallas, Texas, Reed served on many state of Texas boards and commissions and his last appointments were to the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, and to the Texas Affordable Housing Task Force.
Since relocating to Los Angeles, he has been equally active in the community and community activities.
African Americans are not without their share of millionaires, but rarely have any of them come close to giving back to our community the way this native Texan has. While Reed is busy in his civic associations, his real action is demonstrated in the work he has already accomplished in the community since arriving on the scene in Los Angeles a little over a year ago.
Reed was recently appointed to the UCLA School of Public Affairs Advisory Board, and he serves on many other nonprofit organizations, including the Los Angeles Police Foundation, Valley Economic Development Center, Chrysalis, Los Angeles Neighborhood Housing Services (LANHS), West Los Angeles CDC, Los Angeles Latino Business Chamber of Commerce Advisory Board, Urban League of Los Angeles, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, Freewill Community
He is responsible for spearheading Wells Fargo’s program to provide investments and loans for community development and low-income housing initiatives throughout the region.
Reed’s mission is to bring prosperity to the communities within his region. He has an extensive background with three decades of banking experience working in the areas of community development, corporate philanthropy, and government relations, trust services and small business and consumer banking.
Because Reed’s mission is to bring prosperity to the community, he has made it his business to connect with the right sources to get the job done when it comes to improving the economic opportunity and quality of life for LA Metro’s low and moderate-income communities.
Reed is also the board chair of FIVE MILLION KIDS Initiative, a non-profit organization that teaches financial literacy.
Reed had to endure the loss of his father to cancer in 2006. His mother and father were married for 50 years and the foundation of marriage is one that he feels is his only failure.
“When I got divorced, I thought I had failed,” he states.
He remembers the last day of his father’s chemotherapy on a Monday, Reed last saw him on a Wednesday and on Sunday his father succumbed.
“I felt like I gave him permission to go home, but my pastor later told me that I didn’t, he was just tired,” he solemnly added. Reed would give any piece of money or any earthly belongings to just spend a moment with his father or grandmother.
“Anything that I do today to help someone is all attributed to them and Christ who guides me. I have always been the same guy and I will continue to be the same guy.”
Reed was asked if he had an empty Hallmark to write a message to his father on Father’s Day, what would it say?
“Thank you for allowing me to be me. Thank you for trusting in me. Thank you for giving me the resources and the knowledge to be all that I can be, and thank you for being a great father,” he concluded.
Those kind words are exactly the words that describe OUR feelings to Bryan K. Reed, a father, a mentor, and a community caretaker and institution builder. THANK YOU!