Cover photo for Nellie Watson Reynolds's Obituary
Nellie Watson Reynolds Profile Photo
1924 Nellie 2020

Nellie Watson Reynolds

July 14, 1924 — August 23, 2020

This is me! Is that you? Nellie Reynolds Watson, the icon, the passionate advocate for the people of Philadelphia, passed away on Sunday morning, August 23rd, 2020 at the age of 96.

Born in rural Chathman, Virginia to her mother, Elmer Anderson and father Lloyd Reynolds. She was the fifth of six children.

After her father’s death, her mother moved to Philadelphia with her children.

Nellie graduated from Gratz High School.

As a resident of James Weldon Johnson Homes, she married and had four children, Douglas, Jacqueline, Paul and Steven. For over 50 years she worked to promote justice, equality and improve life for all the residents in public housing. Her advocacy led to the establishment known as the first Resident Advisory Board in the country.

She was also appointed as a member of the PHA Board of Commissioners in 1984 and served for 26 years and as Vice Chairmen of the board for 20 years. She was also the longest serving PHA resident.

She pushed to advance the rights of residents and provided them with a voice for the voiceless. She was also a leading participant of the squatters movement in the late 70s to place residents into vacant PHA homes.

As a member of RAB18 she was a leading advocate to have PHA leases translated into Spanish.

She was also appointed as a resident liaison by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a position she held until her passing.

She was also a trustee on The Community Legal Services Board and a member of the Welfare Rights Organization. She served on the board of the Housing Association of the Delaware Valley and as a emeritus member on the Urban Affairs Coalition’s board.

She also served as a member of the Zion Baptist Church.

She was on the Democratic Election Committee for 50 years for the 32nd Ward, where she served as Chairwoman.

She fought for the construction of Whitman Park in South Philadelphia, which made a huge impact in the city’s struggle for racial integration and justice.

She was a warrior for the rights of the people.

In 2008, an affordable senior housing apartment building was built in honor of her years of leadership in the movement for public housing residents rights.

She was a co-founder of the Share Food Program.

She also suggested that the PHA Police Department hire public housing residents to help ensure greater communication with the residents, city and broader community which became reality in 2013.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority Philly SEEDs Scholarship will be named in her honor as a lasting tribute. She was a recipient of countless awards and honors for her tireless work as an advocate for public housing residents.

She was also selected for the Points of Light award in 1990 by President George H.W Bush

She loved to read, travel and go camping. She loved to cook for seniors during the holidays

She is survived by one daughter, Jacqueline McDowell, two sons, Paul and Steven Reynolds; 10 grandchildren, and many other relatives and friends. Her eldest son, Douglas, preceded her in death.

Over and out!

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Nellie Watson Reynolds, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

24 Hour Viewing

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Starts at 9:00am (Eastern time)

James Weldon Johnson Homes

2630 Norris Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19121

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Celebration of Life

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Starts at 11:00am (Eastern time)

James Weldon Johnson Homes

2630 Norris Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19121

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