For Chris Rey J.D. ’10, running as a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates was just another way to serve.
Last year, he served as the first black to represent the first congressional district in Virginia as a presidential elector.
Since childhood, Rey has been serving in smaller ways. “I was always involved in some organization: mentoring, March of Dimes, Relay for Life,” Rey said.
Born on St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, Rey grew up in Hampton Roads, Va. At age six, Rey went to live with his grandmother, and the two moved to Spring Lakes, N.C. His grandmother encouraged him to get involved in the community by taking him to soup kitchens to feed the local homeless.
While attending Pine Forest High School, Rey focused his energy on running as part of the school’s track and field team.
“Everyone said ‘you should run for student body president,’ but I said ‘No,’” Rey said. “I thought I would go to the Olympics, win a gold medal, retire from the sport — and then maybe coach college track or become an athletic director.”
After high school, Rey went to East Carolina University on a full track and field scholarship. There he began to get involved in student politics, saying he wanted to ensure that all student voices were heard.
“There was still some racial strife there,” Rey said. “I started to engage the administration as a student leader, getting involved in student organizations.”
Rey served in the Student Government Association, becoming the head of the appropriations committee. He brushed aside suggestions to run for SGA president, deciding he “wasn’t ready for all that.”
Rey did serve as chapter president of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and then became involved with it at both the state and national levels.
“The organization really helped unlock leadership qualities,” Rey said.
During this time, Rey also became involved in John Edwards’s senatorial campaign and met one of his idols, Eva Clayton — the first black woman from North Carolina to be elected to Congress.
After a family emergency forced Rey to leave ECU during his senior year, he enlisted in the military as a computer operations analyst. Two years later, he became a commissioner second lieutenant in the Army and served in the Signal Corps.
Rey toured in Iraq and Afghanistan as a signal officer, commanding the 3rd Special Forces Signal Detachment at Fort Bragg, N.C.
“It was my team that helped to lay the initial network in Iraq that allows soldiers to call home to this day,” Rey said. He elaborated, saying that the task was his “proudest accomplishment.”
After serving in the Army for over seven years, Rey left the military. During his time as an officer, Rey was awarded the Bronze Star, the Army Accommodation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.
Rey enrolled at the College of William and Mary Law School to increase his opportunities for serving the community.
“They teach us about being citizen attorneys. It’s as if you have this obligation to give back, no matter what, and continue to uphold the standards of citizen attorneys,” Rey said. “It was already in me and … it was like ‘you have come to the right place, and we’re going to sharpen you and focus you to where you’re going to be at.’”
At the College, Rey is a member of the William and Mary Law Society and serves as the National Director of Corporate Relations for the National Black Law Students Association.
Rey also became involved with the Democratic Party in the City of Williamsburg and in James City County.
“During the Obama campaign, the coordinating office got headquartered [in Newport News], so it became like a second home,” he said. “I got to know the people, the community, the challenges there.”
After his work on the Obama campaign, he announced his candidacy for the seat of state delegate for District 93, which covers parts of James City and Newport News — the same area where he campaigned for President Barack Obama.
“There’s no real substantive conversation in Richmond, be it transportation, education reform, creating new jobs,” Rey said. “A lot of folks are just constantly running for office to hold their seats, forgetting they’re representing people. I don’t want to be a seat warmer.”
Rey is the first Democratic candidate in the first district in 14 years, and he’s running against Republican incumbent Phil Hamilton.
Rey hopes he can help by improving communication between local citizens and the politicians in Richmond.
“Politicians think they’re just smarter than everyone else, but that’s not the case. I’ve run across citizens with just great ideas, and they should be taken to Richmond,” Rey said. “As a soldier, I was standing as a representative of the country. As an attorney, you’re standing as a representative of the client. As a politician, you’re standing as a representative of the citizens.”