In 1983, Ralph Reed found God. Or rather, as one of his college classmates put it, “He didn’t change his views. He just found out that God agreed with him.” Reed’s newfound faith reportedly compelled him to seek forgiveness for some of his past transgressions and ultimately led to the founding of Students for America (SFA), a spin-off of Young Americans for Freedom that sought to get college-aged evangelicals involved in politics.
The skills and contacts he had developed during his stint with the College Republicans came in handy as the head of Students for America, an organization which he claimed - just one year after it was founded –consisted of more than “7,000 students on approximately 200 college campuses in 41 states.”
Reed’s love of political theater and right-wing activism served him well at SFA. For instance, when he found out that there was a women’s health clinic just down the street from SFA’s headquarters, Reed rented a powder blue Cadillac to serve as a hearse and organized protests and “pray-ins” outside the clinic, even going so far as to picket the home of the doctor who had founded the clinic.
Reed’s Washington connections were a big draw for SFA, which held training sessions for activists that featured right-wing stalwarts such as Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, Bill Bennett, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Jesse Helms.
Reed eventually became “burned out” on politics and retreated to Emory University where he obtained a PhD. in American History. But he would soon return to right-wing politics as the man behind the newly formed “Christian Coalition.”