Longtime Tampa legislator and community advocate Betty Reed died Friday at the age of 81. During her life, Reed became known as a fierce advocate for education, children and mothers.
Reed, who herself was a mother of five, was a champion for improving Black maternal health and access to quality, affordable education during her time in the Florida House, where she served the Tampa Bay area from 2006 until 2014.
Reed’s interest in public service was sparked after joining the Parent Teacher Association while her children were in school, leading her to the Hillsborough County Council of PTSA and the Florida State PTA. From there, she was inspired to complete her own high school diploma by attending night and weekend classes, eventually earning an associate’s degree from Hillsborough Community College and bachelor’s degree from National Louis University.
After the news of her passing, local elected officials who knew Reed reflected on her work and the impact she left on the lives of Floridians.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said Reed “exemplified the best of public service.” She highlighted Reed’s tenure in the Florida House, including passing legislation that prohibits the use of restraints on incarcerated women in labor, delivery and recovery, which passed both the Florida House and Senate with bipartisan support.
“I join countless Floridians in mourning the passing of my friend and former State Representative Betty Reed,” Castor said in a statement. “Representative Reed was a compassionate leader, who immersed herself in the challenges of her neighbors and served selflessly throughout her life. I am saddened by the loss of my friend, and am holding her husband James, her family, loved ones and Tampa Bay area residents in my thoughts. We are all better for the life, service and legacy of Betty Reed.”
“This is who Betty Reed was – a committed advocate to her neighbors who was willing to work tirelessly to achieve results that bettered the lives of Floridians,” Castor continued.
Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls also honored Reed, posting a picture of her that is displayed on the walls of the House Member’s Lounge.
“Hanging on the walls of the House Member’s Lounge is a permanent reminder of Betty Reed and her legacy of service to Floridians. May she Rest In Peace,” Sprowls wrote.
Hanging on the walls of the House Member’s Lounge is a permanent reminder of Betty Reed and her legacy of service to Floridians. May she Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/gYcz85baBn
— Chris Sprowls (@ChrisSprowls) May 20, 2022
My mentor and trailblazer State Representative Betty Reed has gone home. I want to thank her for instilling in me a heart of service and for giving me a charge to keep. May she always Rest In Peace and may her legacy of service continue in the lives she touched. pic.twitter.com/tszjdiJDgX
— Dianne Hart (@DianneHartFL) May 20, 2022
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor wrote: “Incredibly sad to hear of the passing of former State Representative Betty Reed. Her passion for public service and dedication to helping our community will forever serve as an inspiration to us all. Sending her family and friends all my love during this hardest time.”
Incredibly sad to hear of the passing of former State Representative Betty Reed. Her passion for public service and dedication to helping our community will forever serve as an inspiration to us all. Sending her family and friends all my love during this hardest time.
— Jane Castor (@JaneCastor) May 20, 2022
Reed is survived by her husband, James. Funeral services will be held at the Bible-Based Fellowship Church of Temple Terrace.