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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Mayor Tom Henry hugs Charles Redd after presenting him the Key to the Fort award for his community efforts on Friday.

Redd worthy of ‘key'

Charles B. Redd’s advocacy for the people of Fort Wayne extends over four decades, and he is a worthy recipient of the mayor’s first “Key to the Fort” award.

Few individuals have challenged local civic leaders to better serve their constituents as effectively as Redd – who, as a leader himself, aimed to meet the high standards he expects of others.

From helping lead a boycott of city schools over segregation in the late 1960s to spearheading grass-roots voter registration efforts – a role he continues in today – Redd’s influence on the city has been wide-ranging.

As director of the Fort Wayne Urban League from 1968 to 1974, Redd, 78, became a leading spokesman and advocate for the city’s African-American community. He protested segregation and sought to preserve inner-city schools, helping organize “freedom schools” children attended during a Fort Wayne Community Schools boycott.

After working for the former General Telephone Co., Redd was a Democratic City Council member from 1983 to 1991, representing the 1st District well at a time of great difficulties, when the exodus of International Harvester and the east-end industries led to deterioration and higher crime in parts of that district.

Redd returned to public service again in 1997 and 1998 to serve as interim director of the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission, helping restore confidence in the city government agency that investigates discrimination complaints.

Since 1992, Redd has been president of the Voter Information Center, an agency that strives to register and inform voters.

“Charles has been a tireless advocate for equality and democracy in Fort Wayne and beyond,” Mayor Tom Henry said in giving the award to Redd. “He has lived his ideals in service to others through City Council, the Fort Wayne Urban League, the NAACP, his church and numerous non-profit organizations. We share many of the same personal and political values, so I wanted to publicly recognize Charles for his service.”

Henry’s desire to create a local version of the governor’s Sagamore of the Wabash is an appropriate way to recognize city residents who have made significant contributions to their community.

The iron key in the award is a replica of a key used at Fort Wayne in the days of Gen. Anthony Wayne, circa 1790. The original key is on display at The History Center.

Redd’s four decades of dedication to equality and fairness make him an appropriate recipient of the first award.

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