Always giving his best defines Robert Tyrone Reives II in his various roles as a politician, leader, attorney, son, husband and father. Reives’ goal is to serve in any capacity to make a difference in the lives of others in the community and in this state.
While growing up in Lee County, Reives discovered through his family, his church, and neighborhood that people work together to help others, to create excellence, and to make progress. This inspired his passion to use his talents and time to contribute to his community.
Robert was born in Sanford, the only child of Ruth Battle Reives, who was employed with CP&L, and Robert Tyrone Reives Sr., who worked several jobs over the years and finished out his career at the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Reives Sr. was the first African-American to be elected to the Lee County Board of Commissioners 30 years ago last November. He is the longest serving member of the board.
Fast forward 25 years: Reives II became the first African-American to serve the N.C. House of Representatives covering Lee and Chatham counties.
Both father and son have contributed tremendously to elevate the role of blacks in this area and North Carolina.
Reives II graduated from Lee County Senior High School in 1988 and received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration/Finance from UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan Flagler School of Business in 1992. Then he earned his Juris Doctorate from the UNC School of Law in 1995.
Reives returned to Sanford to serve as a prosecutor for the Lee County District Attorney’s Office. More than four years later, Reives entered private practice with William “Bill” Wilson. The law firm of Wilson & Reives became involved with sponsoring education scholarships and supporting numerous community events.
Meanwhile, when the Reives family was active at First Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford the young Robert attended the Deep River Baptist Convention and encountered the love of his life when he was 15 and she was 14. “I met Cynthia Taylor and thought she had the prettiest smile I had ever seen,” he said.
“Cindy” is the daughter of Calvin and Delphine Taylor (now Womack) and grew up in Goldston. She attended Chatham Central High School and majored in psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill and later received a master’s of science in Rehabilitation Psychology and Counseling from UNC. Cindy’s first job as a respite worker was in Sanford at Lee-Harnett Mental Health.
The couple’s first date was Robert’s senior prom in May 1988. They married April 11, 1998, and had two children, Brianna and Robert, III who is nicknamed “TJ.”
Turning point: Shift to politics
The family of four was living happily in Sanford when an unexpected opportunity came Reives’ way. When Democrat Deb McManus left her position as a representative for House District 54, serving constituents in portions of Lee County and all of Chatham County, Robert was interviewed as her replacement by the Chatham County Democratic Party.
Advocates rallied for Reives’ candidacy. “What I like best about this community is that we all support each other. I could not have run for elected office or served without the support I received here,” he said.
Reives was appointed on Jan. 29, 2014 to the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA). After taking office Reives was tapped for leadership serving as Freshman Caucus Co-Chair and as treasurer of the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus. He was elected in November 2014 and re-elected in November 2016.
When legislators in 2017 redrew the electoral maps Lee County was deleted from House District 54 and replaced by a portion of Durham County across the Chatham border along N.C. 751. Robert lived in Lee so he would not be eligible to run for the office he was holding. Since Reives’ wife, Cindy, grew up in Goldston they decided to move there.
Reives was re-elected the third time in November 2018 and serves as Deputy Democratic Leader of the House, as vice chair of the Education-Community Colleges committee, and as vice chair of the Judiciary III committee. Reives’ other committee assignments include Agriculture, Finance, and Rules, Calendar, and Operations.
The first piece of legislation Reives sponsored in the 2019 session addresses fair election maps. Reives said, “I’m proud to be a co-sponsor of this important legislation to rid North Carolina of hyper-partisan gerrymandering, and I commend every other legislator that has joined in this effort. We need to get rid of gerrymandering and get back to the way democracy is supposed to work — where the people pick the politicians.”
This bill will end the decades-long practice of allowing whichever political party controls the state legislature to draw the lines used to elect state legislators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Meeting needs and leaving a legacy
Through Reives’ experience as a three-term representative, he has cultivated insights on how government can work best. He recognizes that in today’s polarized politics, the needs of citizens can get overlooked if politicians seek to promote their own agendas or fear breaking party allegiances.
Reives said his experience as a former assistant DA offers an advantage. “I approach legislation with an eye towards protecting those who are marginalized, vulnerable and oppressed. My experience as a certified mediator and attorney give me a skill set to help opposing factions reach consensus and resolve conflict,” he noted.
The representative has sponsored legislation to strengthen public schools and to help protect children, the disabled, the environment, and property rights.
“I listen to the needs of the voters to meet their vision of tomorrow,” Reives said.
As Reives contemplates his legacy: “I want people to feel like because of my specific service and involvement that I made our community and state a much better place in a truly tangible way. Not in the abstract, but specifically in people I’ve influenced, policies supported and advanced, bills passed, attitudes that have changed about how we see each other and deal with each other.”
Beyond the NCGA, Reives continues his service to his community.
Reives feels blessed. “God and family come first for me, and I consider the community a part of my family. I am a product of my community, and I ended up being the person I am with the help of tons of people. I want to give back.”
AlexSandra “Sandy Lynn” Lett lives near Broadway. She is a professional speaker and author. Reach her at LettsSetaSpell@aol.com and 919-499-8880.