Pastor of Seventeenth Street Missionary Baptist Church, Reynolds was also a civil rights activist and advocate for the poor in Anniston and Alabama. He was a former school board member, a husband and father. Speakers at his funeral included political allies such as Joseph E. Lowery, who worked with Reynolds during the civil rights era and maintained a decades-long friendship with him. There were local politicians, members of his church, friends and family.
They painted a picture of a quiet but strong man of passion who spent his life working for others.
A funeral procession at 10 a.m. drew about 10 mourners. They followed a horse-drawn carriage carrying Reynolds' body from the pavilion at Zinn Park to the Seventeenth Street Missionary Baptist Church for the funeral.
The mourners walked under umbrellas in the rain through flooded streets as people along the way photographed and took video of the small procession.
Rev. C. Howard Nevett said he thought the rain kept people away from the procession. But he added Reynolds was his closest friend and mentor and that was reason enough to brave the rain.
“I was fresh out of Clark University and I knew how to think, but I didn’t know how to pastor. So he taught me,” Nevett said. “I’m where I need to be.”
The procession and the funeral were attended by mainly black people who described Reynolds as an Anniston icon.
Ellen Akin, who is white, came for the procession because she admired the pastor. She didn’t know him personally but worked with his children, Andre’ deKoven Reynolds and Tammye Quinell Willams, when she taught in the Anniston school system.
“I think that he just set a standard for the people that followed him,” Akin said. “I just admire anybody who will stand up for their beliefs and especially go through what he went through.”
Reynolds stood up to prejudice in the 1960s and 1970s. He tried to integrate the Carnegie Library in Anniston in 1963 and was beaten for his efforts. He sued to have his children enrolled in Tenth Street Elementary in an effort to desegregate the school system.
“Everything you see today that’s right, it’s because of him,” said Evelyn Morris, one of the members of his flock.
Gail Ashley, who worked for Reynolds at the Community Action Agency, said the city and state lost a great leader with Reynolds’ death.
“He helped lead us out of some dark days,” Ashley said, referring to the years of Anniston segregation. And Reynolds is still inspiring today’s local politicians.
Mayor Vaughn Stewart said that when he decided to run for a judge’s seat, the first person he talked to was Reynolds. Councilman David Reddick said he spoke to Reynolds as often as he could.
“He had a wealth of knowledge,” Reddick said. “If I had a question, how can I do this? Rev. Reynolds was one of the people that knew how to do it.”
Pastor Bernard Williams, a longtime friend of Reynolds, was introduced to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by Reynolds. Reynolds had helped organize the local chapter. He said that Reynolds' work will continue to affect local people and people across the state.
“His song has ended but the memory lingers on,” Williams said.
Reynolds’ family, his children, nieces and nephews and cousins, shared him with the community as they grew up. But they said his example taught them lessons that they carry on into their daily life. Andre’ Reynolds, who is now a pastor himself in Birmingham, described his father as one of the most intelligent people he knew. He described his father’s sermons as teaching about the strength of working together, the importance of hard work and the need to rely on God. He talked about his father’s love of poetry and nursery rhymes which he would occasionally use for sermons. He spoke about his father’s unique ways of presenting the gospel.
Lowery, 92, said it would be an insult to reiterate Reynolds’ work.
“It would be an insult because Nimrod (Reynolds) already preached his sermons,” Lowery said. “People already know.”
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.