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Ernest "Jack" Reed

November 13, 1934 ~ April 15, 2023 (age 88) 88 Years Old

Ernest Reed Obituary

Ernest "Jack" Reed, 88, a community stalwart who loved and served the people of South Bend throughout his life, passed away on April 15, 2023. Ernest “Jack” Reed, affectionately known by all as Jack, was born on Nov 13, 1934 to the union of Ernest and Gladys Reed in Brownsville, Tennessee. This man of high standards had his principles forged through fiery times of inequality in America watching his mother clean houses everyday while instilling in him the wisdom of what she called the “4 C’s.” She told him to avoid the three Cs of complaining, criticizing, and condemning and learn to focus on the most important “C,” caring.

It was this focus on care that fueled his strong work ethic to maintain at least two jobs since he was 12 years old to help his family make ends meet. Likewise, his caring heart helped him endure experiences with discrimination. Despite high test scores and a stellar reference from Paul Gilbert, owner of Gilbert’s Men's clothing store (one of the most prominent business owners of the time) he was denied his dream job as an Indiana State Trooper. At that time, the patrol did not hire African Americans. Instead of focusing on the negative, he chose the positive route and made his way up through the ranks of the South Bend Fire Department. His concentration on caring is what caused him to question things that didn’t seem right, which didn’t always sit well with authority. However, his willingness to challenge the status quo with innovative thinking is what helped him rise to become the first African American Battalion Chief of the Fire Department in his beloved South Bend.

His caring soul is why he served this city for 47 years. After consulting his wife, he decided to transition to work for the mayor’s office under Mayor Joe Kernan’s administration, staying on with Mayor Steve Leucke’s administration as Deputy Mayor. This position provided him with a unique vantage point on how the city worked and a unique opportunity to effect positive change in his community, and he was described by Mayor Leucke as a “model civil servant who embodied what it means to be a servant leader.”

Reed was a friend and mentor to many including former Fire Chiefs Luther Taylor and Howard Buchanon, as well as current Fire Chief Carl Buchanon. He was a compassionate model civil servant, a hero to his community, and a trailblazer for African Americans in South Bend, Indiana. His legacy will live on in the countless lives he touched and the positive change he brought to the community. Jack was preceded in death by his Mother Gladys Reed, Father Ernest Reed, and Sisters Gladell Ames and Ruth Morton. He is survived by his loving wife of 46 years, Mary Reed of South Bend, Indiana; daughter Tonya Jones-Hebert (Joseph) of San Antonio, Texas; brother-in-law Ralph Morton of South Bend, Indiana; his nephews Rafael Morton of South Bend, Indiana and Quentin Barber of Oakland, California; his grandsons Peyton Jones-Hebert and Connor Jones-Hebert of San Antonio, Texas and a host of relatives and friends. At Jack’s request there will be no public funeral services. Funeral Arrangements have been entrusted to where condolences may be shared. 

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