Monday, March 05, 2007

NAACP President Resigns After 19 Months

Does the resignation of the NAACP President send shockwaves through the civil rights community?

Associated Press

NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon is quitting the civil rights organization, leaving after just 19 months at the helm, he told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Gordon cited growing strain with board members over the group's management style and future operations.

"I believe that any organization that's going to be effective will only be effective if the board and the CEO are aligned and I don't think we are aligned," Gordon said. "This compromises the ability of the board to be as effective as it can be."

Gordon said he will give up his duties before month's end. He spoke by phone from Los Angeles, where he attended the NAACP Image Awards.

Dennis C. Hayes, general counsel of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is expected to serve as interim president, Gordon said. Hayes filled the same role after Kweisi Mfume resigned the presidency in 2004 after nine years.

Gordon said that while the NAACP is an advocacy organization, it needs to be more focused on service and finding solutions.

"I'm used to a CEO running an organization, with the board approving strategy and policy," Gordon said. "But the NAACP board is very much involved."

Gordon said he made the decision in recent weeks and told the board at its annual meeting in New York City in mid-February.

NAACP leaders were surprised by his decision and engaged in hours of discussion, he said.

"They expressed disappointment," Gordon said. "We attempted to see whether there was a way to continue but that didn't happen."

Gordon sounded weary as he boarded a flight home to New York City on Sunday.

"I don't view this as I'm right and they're wrong. I view this as I see things one way and they see things a different way," he said. "That misalignment between the CEO and the board is unhealthy."

Asked about his plans after leaving the NAACP, Gordon said: "I'm going to catch my breath."

"What I've clearly learned in my tenure here is that all is not well in black America, that's for sure," he said. "I believe I have a lot to offer. I've got to find a way to be engaged that optimizes what it is I bring to the table. My intention is not to disengage, but to find a different way."

NAACP spokesman Richard McIntire declined to comment.

Gordon, 61, was a surprise pick for the NAACP's top post. When he took over on August 1, 2005, he had no track record in traditional civil rights circles. He had spent 35 years in the telecommunications industry and retired in 2003 from his post as president of the Retail Markets Group for Verizon Corp.

Critics said he wouldn't be a good fit for the nearly 98-year-old organization.

However, he smoothed strained relations between the NAACP and the White House, meeting with President Bush three times in less than a year. He used his corporate ties to lend quick assistance to black New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina. And he hired a number of key national employees whose reputations inspired staff members.

Gordon "brought a level of competence that we hadn't had," Julian Bond, chairman of the board, said last year.

Bond also has acknowledged that, with 64 members, the NAACP's board of directors is large and sometimes unwieldy. But he has defended it, saying it allows a wide range of members voices to be heard.

Ronald Walters, a University of Maryland political science professor who has followed the NAACP closely for years, was surprised at the news, but added that he had suspected that Gordon may not fit in at the NAACP.

"I thought very early on that there might be a cultural conflict," Walters said. "Somebody who came out of a corporate culture and was used to a set of agenda items and management style in one field might not have been able to make the adjustment totally to another field."

Willis Edwards, a board member from Los Angeles, said, "We tried a certain type of guy, a business guy we didn't have a civil rights guy. Maybe he had a different philosophy of what a civil rights organization is about."

Rupert Richardson, a board member from Louisiana, said it was clear Gordon wanted the NAACP to do more social service work, but that was not the decades-old mission of the group.

"I think he saw his job as remaking us to make us more effective, but his job was to do what the board and management wanted," she said. "He was not a good fit for us, but he could have been."


Anonymous said...

This is a real shame. We finally get a person in that knows how to organize the organization to move forward and the stubborn NAACP board wants to remain in the dark ages.

I don't know about anyone else, but it is obvious to me that the NAACP Board wants to stay in the dark ages.

Things that worked 40 years ago simply does not work now. Bruce Gordon was a breath of fresh air for the NAACP. The board is too big and everyone wants to RUN it.

The board wants people to join but they do things like this. You sure wonn't get people knocking down your door to join. And you are going to, not only lose some older members, like me, but you will lose the young people because the NAACP has nothing to offer.

The older Board members don't want change. You will eventually lose some sponsors because of your stance. WHAT A SHAME. Mr. Gordon was taking us to a different level.

Brother Spotless said...

Some thinkers like Marc Lamont Hill would say that Gordon was shifting the focus of the organization away from what its purpose should be: social advocacy.

I agree to an extent with anonymous. The NAACP is going to have to do something to attract membership. As the Civil Rights generation grows older, less of them will be actively involved. And what does the NAACP have to offer to a young cat like myself, a card-carrying member of the Hip Hop generation?

I will say that the NAACP has traditionally been a social advocacy organization, and that is still needed. I wonder if the board and Mr Gordon could have compromised, and developed an economic wing of the NAACP...

Whatever the specifics are, the NAACP, as it currently stands, has little to no chance of being a relevant voice as we travel deeper into this millenium. Studies suggest that the current young adult population is far more concerned with personal wealth than our forefathers and foremothers were. Maybe an ideological shift toward economic prosperity would benefit the NAACP and black America alike...