Rowan Says NAACP Has to Drop Gibson

October 09, 1994|By HAROLD JACKSON

Syndicated columnist Carl Rowan renewed his attack on the leadership of the NAACP last week when he accused Dr. William F. Gibson, the board chairman, of misusing organization money.

Mr. Rowan wrote a column quoting unnamed sources as saying that Dr. Gibson, a South Carolina dentist, "double-dipped" by being reimbursed for more than $30,000 in expenses that he had already charged to an NAACP credit card.

Mr. Rowan's column also raised questions about an Aug. 25, 1988, check, "ostensibly for the South Carolina Conference of the NAACP, but made out to" Dr. Gibson personally. The column quoted Dr. Gibson as saying that "bad bookkeeping at the [NAACP's] national headquarters is a real problem" and that he did not remember receiving or signing any such check.

Dr. Gibson called the double-dipping allegations a "lie" in a story The Sun ran on the same day that Mr. Rowan's column appeared. "I know I have done no wrong in relation to utilizing the limited resources of this organization," he added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Rowan says he has documents to back up his allegations.

The Gibson charges come at a time when the NAACP is experiencing financial and credibility problems. Its former executive director, the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., stepped down Aug. 20 after Mr. Rowan wrote about a secret deal Dr. Chavis had made with a former aide. The deal called for paying the woman up to $332,400 to prevent her from filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Dr. Chavis.

Mr. Rowan hammered away at the secret deal and called on the NAACP board to dump Dr. Chavis and Dr. Gibson. Shortly after the NAACP board ousted Dr. Chavis in August, Mr. Rowan called for Dr. Gibson's resignation.

He wrote: "It is common knowledge that Dr. Chavis was but an extension of Dr. Gibson and his lust for power, and that as long as Dr. Gibson is chairman the NAACP board will be little more than a bickering monstrosity."

Dr. Chavis generated much controversy during his 17 months as the NAACP's executive director. He embraced Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan -- whose rhetoric includes a litany of anti-Jewish re- marks -- and he was at the NAACP's helm when the organization's $2.7 million deficit was revealed in May.

Mr. Rowan proved to be Dr. Chavis' nemesis. Now he is aiming at Dr. Gibson. While some some NAACP supporters praise Mr. Rowan's work, others criticize him for adding to the organization's woes.

The NAACP's executive committee issued a statement Wednesday saying Dr. Gibson "has done nothing wrong" and that "we decry those who profess to want to save the organization by attempting to destroy it."

Mr. Rowan, 69, has been described as the dean of African-American syndicated columnists. He began his career in 1948 as a copywriter at the Minneapolis Tribune. He became a columnist for Field Newspaper Syndicate in 1965. In addition to writing columns and books, he is a television commentator and frequent panelist on TV news programs.

During telephone interviews late last week, Mr. Rowan discussed his feelings about the NAACP and Dr. Gibson's alleged misuse of organization money.

Q: Should Dr. Gibson resign?

A: Yes. What I see in these American Express letters and this pile of checks written to Gibson is that he absolutely has to resign, or within months the NAACP will be dead, because there will be no hope of it regaining credibility and respect.

Q: Is getting rid of Dr. Gibson all the NAACP needs to do to right its course?

A: They need to bring in a new board of directors and limit its members to a number that is manageable. Six is manageable. I think a board of 50 or 60 members is too doggone big to be effective. And the NAACP needs to have a board with a common sense of where they want to go, instead of fighting each other all the time. That does not mean a board has to be monolithic, have one viewpoint, but it should be a board where people respect each other and work with each other. They should know what their goals and targets are. And they need an executive director with wisdom, strength and the absolute respect of the community.

Q: Speaking of executive directors, should the NAACP have ever hired Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. as its executive director?

A: I think recent events have shown it was a mistake to bring on Mr. Chavis. . . .

Q: Do you think Mr. Chavis' attempts to link the NAACP with what traditionally have been some of the more radical African-American organizations and factions was wrong?

A: Let me make it clear that nothing I have written about the NAACP in recent weeks had a single thing to do with the issue of ideology or whether the NAACP is old-fashioned or anything like that. I wrote a column to say Chavis and the NAACP had a right to invite to meetings anyone they chose. But that is irrelevant to what I have written about expense accounts. Leave it to the board to set ideological policy.

Q: Then let's go back to Dr. Gibson and your allegations that he has bilked the NAACP. How strongly do you feel you are right? Who are your sources?

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