MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Mel Reeves, a longtime activist in the Twin Cities, died Thursday due to complications from COVID-19. He was 64 years old.
The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, where Reeves was the community editor, announced his death, saying that Reeves was a "true champion of the underdog with a heart for social justice."
"He had an infectious personality and passion for life," the publication said, in a statement, adding that Reeves was a loving father, grandfather, friend, journalist, and a "soldier in the army for justice."
Just last week, Reeves spoke to WCCO-TV while in the hospital. At that time, he was getting better. However, his condition later worsened and he ended up in the ICU. He died Thursday morning.
"I don't want people to be passing out from something that is preventable," he told WCCO last week. "If you can get the vaccination, get a vaccination, wear your mask, some things can be prevented. We have to overcome our fears so we can live."
From his hospital bed, just one week ago, he urged people to get vaccinated, particularly in the Black community.
"I thought that was one of the most selfless acts any one could do when they are themselves fighting for their lives," said activist Nekima Levy Armstrong.
Word of Reeve's death sent many to social media.
"He touched a lot of people's hearts in so many different ways and everybody knew him," said Tracey Williams Dillard, publisher of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. "And they know no matter what he was there for them."
She knew the strides he took to make sure there were no conflicts between his two roles in the community, as activist and journalist.
"He had such a passion for the community that he wanted to be on the front lines," Williams Dillard said.
The 64-year-old was a fixture at rallies, protests and marches. For more than three decades, Reeves was on the front lines of the fight for social justice.
"He not only used the power of his pen to write about and to tell our stories, but he also used his voice to speak truth to power," Levy Armstrong said.
Even COVID-19 couldn't stop his passion.
He filed two stories while fighting COVID, writing the final front page story of 2021 for the Spokesman-Recorder.
"I could tell he was fighting to stay alive, because he wanted to keep writing," Williams Dillard said. "He was like, if I can keep writing, I can keep living."
She remembers the last phone call she got from Reeves.
"He said, 'Hey, Tracey, I just wanted to call and tell you something.' I said, 'What is it?' He said, 'I love you and I love the paper, and I'll do anything for it' and he meant that and I know it," Williams Dillard said.
Online tributes filled local social media channels as news of Reeves' death spread in the Twin Cities. Among when was a statement from Gov. Tim Walz.
"Mel Reeves left a remarkable legacy," the governor wrote. "As a journalist, civil rights activist, and community leader, he informed and inspired generations of Minnesotans. I'm terribly sorry to hear of his passing. Gwen and I will keep his loved ones in our prayers."
Rep. Ilhan Omar wrote on Twitter that Reeves "was a relentless advocate for justice, a true organizer rooted in the Northside, and a friend. His advocacy helped spark a movement that has inspired the whole nation. Rest in power, Mel."
Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley also posted on Twitter, saying that she and her office in District 4 were devastated by the news of his death.
"He had a tremendous impact in our district through his civil and human rights activism and brilliant writing for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder," she wrote. "Now an ancestor, may he rest in power."
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