Alabama capital elects first black mayor in its 200-year history

Mayoral race in Alabama
Steven Reed in Montgomery, Ala., in September.
(Associated Press)

Alabama’s capital, a city once known as the cradle of the Confederacy and later the birthplace of the civil rights movement, elected its first African American mayor Tuesday.

Probate Judge Steven Reed, 45, defeated businessman David Woods by a decisive margin. Reed won about 67% of the vote in Tuesday’s mayoral runoff, according to unofficial returns.

Reed said his campaign was built on a coalition focused on “what the city can become” and breaking with the politics of the past.


“Tonight, above all, shows what we can do when we come together in this city and we build around positivity, opportunity and all of the things that tie us together rather than those things that keep us apart,” Reed said.

Reed was already the first black probate judge elected in Montgomery County and was one of the first to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in the state. His father, Joe Reed, is the longtime leader of the black caucus of the Alabama Democratic Party.

Woods, who owns WCOV-TV, is the son of the late broadcasting executive Charles Woods, a perennial Alabama candidate for more than 30 years.

Reed will be the first black mayor of the city where Southern delegates voted to form the Confederacy in 1861.

The city also played a crucial role in the civil rights movement. City Hall is located not far from the church once led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and is also near the spot where Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to obey bus segregation laws.

Reed will replace Mayor Todd Strange, who has served since 2009 and did not seek reelection.


Montgomery, a city of about 200,000 people, is about 60% black and has been losing population for years. Issues in the race included tackling crime, which Woods said was his top priority during a debate.

“We’re a city that wants to move forward and a city that wants a vision for the future, and a city that that wants to see better opportunities across the board,” Reed said.