IDA REYNOLDS WATSON
“I found my voice and haven’t been quiet since.”
Ida Reynolds Watson’s leadership in community betterment comes from dedicating herself and her finances to important issues. Her life as a leader began with her engagement in activism in college where she was part of the Black Power Movement and a civil rights protestor. From this experience, she found her voice and learned that “by being an activist you can be a change agent.”
After college, she worked for General Motors in various positions until she and her husband, Perry, decided they wanted to be free of big corporations and work for themselves in their own business. They looked at a variety of different types of industries without finding anything that they felt embodied what they desired to do. A friend was opening a car dealership and invited them to the grand opening. Upon walking into the dealership, she “felt a resonance” and knew they had found their industry. They opened and ran a successful Dodge dealership in Minneapolis for several years before opening their Lexus dealership in 2004 in Mishawaka.
Ida believes that “you’re only successful if you understand the culture of who you’re trying to market to.” She put this into action in the Michiana area by getting out into the community and becoming involved in multiple causes and organizations, including the South Bend Community Foundation; Boys and Girls Club of St. Joseph County; Madison Center; A Rosie Place; South Bend Center for the Homeless Dancing with Our Stars; The Links, Incorporated; and the Saint Joe County Foundation. She points to her involvement at WNIT as one of her favorite things because “I love public television.”
Even though she is at an age when most women are planning to retire, Ida is currently embarking on her next endeavor as a health coach and completing her Master of Divinity degree at Bethel College. She is living her motto of “go against the grain.”
Information compiled from oral history collected by the Michiana Women Leaders Project
Ida was a 2017 CMWL honoree.