Reeves was born in Winnfield, Louisiana, to Jessie W. Reeves (1907-1968) and the former Lois D. "Dude" Robinson (1917-2007). A native of Union Parish in north Louisiana and a brakeman for Missouri Pacific Railroad., Jessie Reeves was killed in an automobile accident while traveling from Monroe to Winnfield. Mrs. Reeves was a native of McCurtain County in southeastern Oklahoma, who for a half century operated a grocery store in Winn Parish.
Reeves graduated in 1964 from Winnfield Senior High School and thereafter Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He served in the United States Air Force. He was stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, at the time of his father's death. Though white, Reeves obtained his legal credentials from the historically black Southern University Law Center in the capital city of Baton Rouge.
He was a member of the Masonic lodge, the Order of the Eastern Star, and the Laurel Heights Baptist Church in Winnfield. He was the divorced father of a son, Jessie Ray Reeves (born April 1969), who lived in Winnfield in 2005 but in East Baton Rouge Parish in 2015, and a daughter, Deanna Renee Reeves Sutton (born October 1975) of Louisville, Kentucky.
Reeves was elected DA to a six-year term on October 6, 1990, by 46 votes over his fellow Democrat, Charles Bradley Bice (born July 1937), also of Winnfield, 3,360 votes (50.3 percent) to 3,314 (49.7 percent). In 1996, Reeves again faced Charles Bice and a No Party candidate, Jim Lewis. Reeves prevailed in a runoff election held on November 5 with 4,020 votes (53 percent) to Bice's 3,560 (47 percent).
Reeves was active in the local, state, and national bar associations, the National District Attorney's Association, the American Judicature Society, the Louisiana Commission on Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement, and the advisory board of Louisiana Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Reeves founded the Winn Parish Drug Task Force. He was a founder and former chairman of the Winn Parish Council on Aging. He was a former chairman of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission and a member of the Winn Parish Board of Election Supervisors.
As DA, Reeves prosecuted game violations, often with stiff sentences to violators, some of whom were required to pay monthly "supervision fees" in addition to fines and loss of hunting privileges for as long as thirty-three months. In 2000, he sentenced violators for hunting after hours and the use of illegal weapons.
Early in his tenure as DA, Reeves swore out a warrant which charged Gary R. Connor (born January 1956), a Democrat and the chief criminal deputy for the Winn Parish Sheriff's Department, with malfeasance in office stemming from the investigation into the death on October 24, 1990, of Lisa Meyers Stevenson. Connor was a personal friend of her father. The charge was dropped by the trial court because of the lack of specificity in what constitutes malfeasance in this particular case. Connor and his wife, Rachel, then brought a civil suit against Reeves on the premise that the DA acted maliciously and in concert with the grand jury to indict Conner. The suit claimed that Reeves's prosecution caused Connor "humiliation, embarrassment, mental anguish, and injury to his reputation." The Connors in their suit set forth three causes of action against Reeves: malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and invasion of privacy. However, the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit rejected the suit on the ground that the DA had absolute immunity in the prosecution of Connor. The court held that the Connors "neither allege nor present evidence of any wrongful conduct by Reeves outside of his prosecutorial duties. There is no evidence that he was performing administrative or investigative duties. All of his actions at issue were purely prosecutorial, and thus protected by absolute immunity."
In a lawsuit Nugent v. Phelps stemming from the April 2002 election for Winnfield police chief, Reeves's political opponents claimed that "as DA, Reeves rules Winn Parish through fear and terror". The suit claimed that Reeves had exerted undue pressure on Sheila White, whom he had recommended for the position of executive director of the Winnfield Housing Authority. White declined to write a $100,000 check on housing authority funds as requested by Reeves as a donation to the city for the construction of a community center. Thereafter, Reeves began demanding various public records, including multiple requests for the same information, which she had already forwarded. The suit stemmed from three voters who were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury during the week of the election. This prevented the three from engaging in campaigning for and casting ballots for their preferred candidate, the incumbent Chief Prentice Gleason Nugent (born c. 1949), who had first been elected in 1994. Instead, Reeves's choice for the position, Benjamin Louis "Benji" Phelps, prevailed by four votes, 911-907. The court refused to order a new election as requested by Chief Nugent and his co-plaintiffs, who were removed from the suit for lack of standing. Phelps (born June 1967) subsequently moved to Natchitoches Parish, where he is a registered Republican voter.
One of the initial plaintiffs in Nugent v. Phelps, Johnny Ray Carpenter (born July 1953), an Independent, was elected after Reeves's death as Winnfield police chief in April 2006 by a margin of sixty-six votes. More than a decade earlier, Carpenter had been pardoned for a narcotics violation by then Governor Edwin Edwards, who at the time of Carpenter's election had begun serving a term for racketeering at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, Louisiana.
Reeves ran without opposition for his third uncompleted term in 2002. After Reeves's death, the Democrat Martin Smith "Marty" Sanders, III (born July 1956), served as DA on an interim basis and immediately faced questions about financial irregularities in the office remaining from Reeves's tenure. Richard Christopher "Chris" Nevils (born December 1969), a Democrat who later turned Independent, polled 57.8 percent of the vote in the special election held on April 1, 2006, to choose Reeves's successor. Still the DA, Nevils had previous experience in the DA's office in East Baton Rouge Parish and, in his words, was the "only candidate to have prosecuted successfully misdemeanor and felony criminal cases and continued with their appeal through state, federal, and U.S. supreme courts." Sanders sought the position too but finished a distant second to Nevils in the four-candidate field with less than 22 percent of the votes cast.
In 2004 alone, Reeves donated a combined $8,725 to several Democratic political candidates, including U.S. Representative Rodney Alexander of Louisiana's 5th congressional district, but his contribution came before Alexander switched to the Republican Party. He also contributed to the successful candidate Charlie Melancon of Louisiana's 3rd congressional district. He gave to Representative Chris John of Louisiana's 7th congressional district, since disbanded, who ran unsuccessfully for the U. S. Senate against Republican David Vitter to fill the seat vacated by Democrat John Breaux. Reeves gave more than $2,000 to the Louisiana Democratic Party. In 2000, he contributed $3,950, mostly to his state party, but $450 to then U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu's pending bid for a second term in 2002.
Reeves died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound two weeks after his 59th birthday, amid allegations of embezzlement and extortion in office. He was accused of having used at least $49,000 in public funds for personal dinners and trips. He killed himself with a single bullet to the chest from a .38 caliber handgun between 5:30 and 9 p.m. on July 22, 2005, at an empty house in Winnfield that he owned. According to the [coroner, Dr. Randolph Layne Williams (born April 1948), the bullet entered the left front chest and exited from the back but did not hit the heart. Williams said that Reeves had "been under a good deal of scrutiny and investigation by various agencies recently," but Reeves left no suicide note.
The office of the then Attorney General of Louisiana Charles Foti would not confirm whether Reeves was facing an indictment. Several months before Reeves's death, the office of then Louisiana Legislative Auditor Steve Theriot said that the DA had not kept proper records of $169,000 for costs of conference and seminars. Reeves spent his $275,000 budget for 2005 by June and still carried a deficit of $400,000 from the preceding year. Reeves sued to force the Winn Parish Police Jury to pay the cost overruns; he claimed the proper budget should have been $500,000 per year, not $275,000. The Internal Revenue Service investigated to determine if Reeves had paid payroll taxes for his employees. Interim DA Martin Sanders, subsequently defeated in a bid for the office, cut some employee salaries by 25 percent, reduced hours for others, but still called for the $500,000 budget that Reeves had requested from the police jury. Sanders continued to pursue the suit against the jury.
Reeves's maternal uncle, Calvin Marion Robinson (1908-1957), a native of Jamestown in Bienville Parish and a former Winn Parish sheriff, also committed suicide. Robinson was forty-nine at the time of his death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and had earlier lost his bid for re-election in 1956.
Reeves is interred along with his parents at Garden of Memories Cemetery in Winnfield. He was the last Louisiana DA to die in office until April 2015, when Charles Scott of Shreveport, a Natchitoches native and like Reeves an undergraduate of Northwestern State University, failed to complete his second term as the DA for Caddo Parish in northwestern Louisiana when he died of a heart attack while on official business in Baton Rouge.