Vincent E. Reed

Emily Mulderig

Vincent Emory Reed was born in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, the 14th of 17 children. His career in education included working as a DCPS teacher, administrator, and superintendent. He was the first Black principal of Wilson and led the school system through a chaotic time. 

Reed was Wilson’s principal for just one year, although undoubtedly one of the most tumultuous years in the school’s history. DCPS had redrawn Wilson’s boundaries, after the 1967 court case Hobson v. Hansen ruled that the system was discriminating against students of color. Previously, the school had been almost completely white, but in the 1968-69 school year, it was 40 percent Black. 

Reed was a competent force during this time and is remembered as a kind and dedicated principal who was truly invested in his students’ futures. “Freedom with maturity; that’s my philosophy of education,” he said in a 1968 interview with The Beacon. 

Reed was appointed acting superintendent of DCPS in 1975 and superintendent in 1976. He established a “competency-based curriculum,” which put emphasis on mastery of basic skills. The new system worked. District-wide test scores rose for the first time in several years and continued to rise for the next few years. 

Reed brought stability to a problematic and chaotic period in the system’s history, fixing rampant administrative problems and pushing for equity. 

In 1980, after a 5-year incumbency as superintendent and a series of disputes with the elected school board, Reed resigned. The city had lost a beloved leader, and residents were understandably frustrated.

Soon after, the board approved a longtime vision of Reed’s for a college-prep public high school, and Benjamin Banneker High School was created. 

He then became the Assistant Secretary of Education and in so doing, one of the highest ranking African-Americans in the Regan administration. In 1982, he became the Washington Post’s Vice President of Communications, a position he held for 16 years. He died in 2017 at the age of 89.