Next NAACP head may not be a household name Organization seeking accomplished leader to replace Hooks.

February 19, 1992|By Michael A. Fletcher and Bruce Reid | Michael A. Fletcher and Bruce Reid,Staff Writers

The chairman of the NAACP said the organization is looking for an accomplished leader to replace executive director Benjamin L. Hooks, but isn't confining its search to famous people.

"If a candidate has a track record of accomplishment in management or activism he will be considered," said William F. Gibson, the Greenville, S.C., dentist who has chaired the 64-member board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since 1985.

Mr. Gibson also said yesterday that the new executive director of America's most influential and oldest civil rights organization will not necessarily be a nationally recognized name.

"Just because they are not in every . . . magazine that comes out, that doesn't mean that they will be eliminated," Mr. Gibson said.

Mr. Hooks, 67, announced his intention to resign from the NAACP last weekend, explaining that he wants to write a book and spend more time with his family. He has scheduled a news conference today in Washington to formally announce his retirement.

Mr. Gibson said he wants the group's next executive director to have "the heart and instincts" to deal with the pressing civil rights and economic issues facing black America. He also said the new leader should be young enough to be expected "to serve 15 years in the job in good health."

Although Mr. Hooks said he would continue to serve in his job until the end of the year, he is under contract to the organization until April 1993, Mr. Gibson said.

Mr. Gibson said he will appoint a search committee of "seven to nine" people within the next two months to select a successor to Mr. Hooks, who succeeded Roy Wilkins as executive director in 1977.

Although the search for a new executive director has yet to begin, several names have surfaced as possible successors to Mr. Hooks.

Among them:

* Ernest G. Green, 50, a former assistant secretary of labor and an investment banker. He is also a national board member of the NAACP.

* Maynard Jackson, 53, mayor of Atlanta.

* The Rev. Calvin O. Butts 3rd, 42, pastor of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church.

* Andrew Young, 59, former mayor of Atlanta, a former congressman and a former ambassador to the United Nations.

* Wade J. Henderson, head of the Washington office of the NAACP.

* The Rev. Emmett C. Burns, pastor of Rising Sun First Baptist Church in Woodlawn and a former NAACP regional director.

"I think it's a wide-open race," said Parren J. Mitchell, a former Maryland congressman. He is chairman of the board of the Washington-based Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense Fund.

"I know that probably the executive director of every large NAACP branch would be interested in applying," Mr. Mitchell said.

Julian Bond, the former Georgia state senator who was ousted from the NAACP board in a shake-up over the weekend, said that Mr. Hooks' successor "will have to be a Superman or [Super]woman."

Mr. Bond said that the new executive director will have to overcome factionalism in the national board and be able to deal with it "second-guessing everything he or she does."

Moreover, he said, Mr. Hooks will be a tough act to follow.

"Dr. Hooks has set an extremely high standard and under his tenure he has made the organization more professional. It moved into the computer age, and it raised more money than before under him," said Mr. Bond, who is now a television talk-show host and a teacher at American University.

Mr. Bond also credited Mr. Hooks for holding the 83-year-old organization together despite "the aggressive hostility of the last two presidents."

Mr. Burns, meanwhile, said, "I expect to be the next executive director of the NAACP." He spoke by telephone from Jackson, Miss. He was there to speak to students at Jackson State University.

Mr. Burns also is not shy about criticizing the NAACP's current leadership.

"Nationally, the NAACP has been very, very weak," Mr. Burns said. The organization has not had "forceful, fearless and fighting leadership," he said.

The nearly 500,000-member group should use "the battering rams of our voices and protests to open doors" for equality in business, education and the courts, Mr. Burns said.

Mr. Gibson, the national board chairman, agreed with some of that assessment, although he said the NAACP has been far more aggressive than Mr. Burns allows.

"The No. 1 item is economics, from A-to-Z," Mr. Gibson said. He said the group must use its clout to help blacks in corporate America break through the "glass ceilings" that often keep them from upper management. Also, he said, the next executive director must be willing to go as far as to lead boycotts to "help people obtain basic economic rights."

"Blacks have to be able to obtain loans on the same basis as everyone else," Mr. Gibson said. "You shouldn't have to pawn your dog, your house and your momma to get a loan."

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