The Rev. Emmett C. Burns, the longtime civil rights activist from Baltimore County, launched a campaign yesterday that he hopes will sweep him past his better-known rivals and into office as the next executive director of the NAACP.
Mr. Burns announced his "candidacy" to replace the retiring Benjamin L. Hooks after a breakfast with about 30 supporters at the Holiday Inn in Woodlawn.
"I am qualified for this post," Mr. Burns declared. "I am the best qualified."
Mr. Hooks has said he will retire next April from the top post at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.
His successor will be chosen by a search committee that should be in place in the next 10 days, said Dr. William F. Gibson, a South Carolina dentist who is chairman of the NAACP's national board.
"I assume we will open up [the search process] to anyone who wants to apply," Dr. Gibson said yesterday. Once candidates are identified, he said, the new executive director will be chosen by the board.
After Mr. Hooks announced his retirement plans last winter, several nationally known names surfaced as possible successors.
They included Ernest G. Green, an investment banker and former assistant labor secretary; Maynard Jackson, mayor of Atlanta; and Andrew Young, former congressman and United Nations ambassador.
Mr. Burns, pastor of Rising Sun First Baptist Church in Woodlawn, said he believes he could bring new life to the civil rights group, which some critics say is out of touch with many blacks.
"Support for the NAACP is out there . . ." Mr. Burns said. "But people will not support a weak NAACP."
The idea of a public campaign for an appointive post seemed to puzzle several longtime observers of the organization.
"This is really unusual," said one.