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Born in 1913 in Collinsville, Illinois, Cecil Reed has lived all of his life in the Midwest as a black man among whites. This self-styled fly in the buttermilk worked among whites with such skill and grace that they were barely aware of his existence - unless he wanted to get a bank loan or move into their neighborhood. Now, in his lively and optimistic autobiography, he speaks of his resilience throughout a life spent working peacefully but passionately for equality. As a teenager and young man, Cecil Reed was the black waiter, the short-order cook, the paper carrier, the tap dancer and singer, the carpenter, and the maintenance man who learned to survive in a white society. As an adult in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he inched his way into owning several small businesses, convincing the community to accept him and his family through hard work and creativity. When whites felt besieged by black militants in the sixties, they turned to him for less threatening advice and leadership. Reed put away his floor sander and became an inspiring speaker who crisscrossed the country offering solutions to civil rights problems. In 1966, Reed was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives, the first and only black Republican to hold this office. His next major triumph: securing a unanimous vote of approval for the state's fair housing bill. Within a year he was appointed by a Democratic governor to the Iowa Employment Security Commission, becoming the first black commissioner in America. Thus began a twenty-year career in public service in both state and federal positions that brought him into partnership with the nation's political, economic, and religious leaders. Throughout his sometimes tragic butalways hope-filled life, from shoeshine stand to Department of Labor, Cecil Reed has been a quiet, persistent, realistically-within-the-system fighter for justice. Although he epitomizes the success of his "get along by getting along" philosophy, he still confronts racism daily
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