Reese, who had already been organist and choir director for New Bethlehem Baptist Church in Dolomite while a student at Westfield High School, joined the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights Choir at the invitation of co-founder Nims Gay shortly after graduating in 1960. Soon he succeeded Gay and co-founder Mamie Brown as director.
As the ACMHR's music director, Reese adapted many traditional hymns into freedom songs for the choir which performed at mass meetings, most intensively during the nightly meetings coinciding with the Birmingham Campaign of Spring 1963.
Reese went on to earn a degree at Miles College and taught in several area high schools.
- "Lest We Forget, Vol. 2: Birmingham, Alabama, 1963 - Mass Meeting" (1980) Smithsonian Folkways Records.
- Obituaries 2002-2005 at Westfield High School Alumni Association
- Temple, Chanda (February 2015) "Birmingham's Singing Legacy: The Carlton Reese Choir." Birmingham magazine