Standing was difficult for the 78-year-old Charles Redd, but getting everyone else out of their seats was easy.
Mayor Tom Henry honored the former city councilman Friday with his inaugural Key to the Fort award.
“Charles has been a tireless advocate for equality and democracy in Fort Wayne and beyond,” Henry said.
The mayor said the inspiration for the award came from the governor’s Sagamore of the Wabash honor, which his father received. He said the city should have a similar award, and he could think of no better person than Redd to get the first one.
Redd said he was humbled by the honor and the rousing reception by more than 50 friends and city workers. He said it was unusual to be recognized for doing “ordinary things” that should be done anyway. The Detroit native said the recognition doesn’t mean his work is done.
“Keep up the good work. I’m not stopping. I’m just beginning,” he told the crowd.
In a proclamation, Henry touted Redd’s contributions to the city, saying he served the Fort Wayne Urban League, the local NAACP and many other organizations. Redd also served on the council with Henry for eight years, from 1984 to 1992. Henry said he remembered working with Redd on a failed effort to get gun controls in the city, saying Redd was vehement in his convictions to help make the community safer.
The award announcement came a few weeks after Henry was criticized by Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, for not promoting diversity within his administration. Both Hines and Redd are black. Rachel Blakeman, spokeswoman for Henry, said the award had nothing to do with that controversy. She said she was aware Redd would be honored this spring, and Henry said the physical award was being built since July.
Redd was honored with a hand-forged replica of the iron key that was used at the actual Fort Wayne in the days of Anthony Wayne. It is set on a base of wood from the original St. Vincent’s Church at Wallen and Old Auburn roads.
Henry said he would periodically give the award to people who exemplify Fort Wayne, and he hoped future mayors would continue the tradition.