Vitilas “Veto” Reid was honored by state Rep. Chrissy Sommer (R-St. Charles) and the Missouri House of Representatives last month with the “Hidden Figures” award. The award alludes to the 2017 Academy Awards Best Picture nominee, “Hidden Figures,” in that it acknowledges Missouri's unnoticed African-American community leaders.
“It was the story of my life,” Reid said. “I was so happy when I received the award. It was the most outstanding award I've ever received.”
The timing of the award was fitting given that February is nationally recognized as Black History Month. The month is about celebrating not just the achievements of past African Americans, but ones who are still living and actively working in their communities.
Reid worked for the U.S. Postal Service at various locations for over 50 years before he retired in September 2001. He had already received a slew of awards and achievements, including having the Normandy Branch Post Office named after him in 2004.
Despite all of his accolades, Reid considers his greatest achievement to be marrying his wife Bessie Luster on February 17, 1968. Reid is the father of two daughters, and has grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
“My wife is the key to my whole life,” Reid said. “She's always been here for me. We celebrated our 50th anniversary just last week.”
Reid has been a groundbreaker, being the first African American to hold several positions, such as postmaster in both Godfrey, Illinois, and St. Charles, Missouri; president of the St. Joseph Hospital Advisory Board; and a member of the St. Charles Rotary Club.
Reid graduated with honors in 1947 from Vashon High School in St. Louis. He was the vice president of his class and ran for the 1947 Championship Track Team. He was inducted into the Vashon High School Hall of Fame in 1991 and was honored in its 2015 Hall of Fame ceremony.
Reid went on to attend Stowe Teachers College and the University of Missouri at St. Louis before starting his U.S. Postal Service career in August 1951. “The post office was one of the prime jobs at the time,” Reid said. “It was and still is very good to me.”
Although he currently resides in St. Charles, Reid still feels for the St. Louis community. “St. Louis needs help,” Reid said. “It needs serious help.”
Reid isn't letting the fact that he's now 88 years old keep him out of that fight. He is still a board member for several organizations and said that his goal is to remain active in the community.
His liveliness is not limited to just legislation and paperwork. He still goes to the gym three days per week. That's to be expected from the nephew of Mathews-Dickey Boys' & Girls' Club co-founder Hubert “Dickey” Ballentine.
“I have no regrets,” Reid said as he reflected on his life. “My life has been beautiful, and it remains beautiful for me and my family.”
Tashan Reed is a St. Louis American editorial intern from the University of Missouri Columbia.