LIVINGSTON, NJ — Reginald “Reggie” Sims, one of the first Black graduates of Livingston High School in 1971, has been quipping that he won’t need a name tag at the 50th class reunion this weekend.
Sims, now an assistant prosecutor at the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, is hoping to get more classmates signed up for the reunion, scheduled for this Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Hyatt in Morristown.
The reunion was delayed a year because of the pandemic.
648 seniors graduated from Livingston High’s class of 1971, Sims said.
A reunion committee spearheaded by Dona (Altomare) Mitschele has been planning the event for over a year, he noted. (See registration information below.)
Sims was a varsity athlete in high school, lettering in track for three years.
He said that at the reunion, he may have to have some awkward conversations. He said that people often want to ask him what it was like to be among the only students of color in his town, but they’re afraid of offending.
“Whether it’s Hortense or Dumbo, it’s always the elephant in the room,” Sims said this week. “I think we all have a story to tell. My life wasn’t all that different from other kids, but I was a minority…but there were some nasty things that did happen. But whenever I had a tough situation, it’s something you can grow off of.”
Sims said he’s been told since high school that he was the first Black male graduate of Livingston High School, but he’s heard from school staff that there was at least one female Black graduate before him.
His family moved from East Orange to Livingston when he was 14, he said, because his dad owned a bar in East Orange and wanted his family to have a bit more quiet in their life.
He didn’t know much about suburban towns like Livingston, said Sims, who was born in Newark.
Sims went on to graduate with a B.A. from Marietta College (Ohio) and a law degree from Hofstra Law School. During the mid to late 1970s, he was a substitute teacher in the Livingston School District.
At the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, he is assigned to the Juvenile Unit.
He also has written essays for the New York Times, including one in 1979 called “A Black in Suburbia,” about life as a teen in Livingston.
“With the ’71 class, we were a bunch of nice kids who were oblivious to race and sheltered from the events of the world,” Sims said this week. “And for some friends and acquaintances it has been a difficult, delicate subject to ask about my high school years.”
Currently, he’s working on a memoir where he describes his experience of being a caregiver for his late mother, a stroke survivor. The Working Title Is: “Step On A Crack: The Story of a Male Care Giver.” (He’s looking for an agent, he notes.)
Join The Reunion
People can attend the upcoming reunion last-minute by walking in and registering on-site, although the committee is hoping they register in advance, Sims said.
“Despite the current health care crisis, the ’71 class reunion committee has been working on a shoestring budget, but it was a labor of love,” he said.
Committee member and classmate Jeff Leiter said, “I am so anxious to reconnect with so many classmates and see how life has been.”