NAACP 'silent majority' says it supports Gibson

November 30, 1994|By James Bock | James Bock,Sun Staff Writer

A self-declared "silent majority" of NAACP board members has issued a statement of support for embattled Chairman William F. Gibson and urged their colleagues to stop "press collaboration that could cause lasting harm" to the civil rights group.

But Joseph E. Madison, a board member who has called for Dr. Gibson's resignation, angrily called the statement "nothing more than an attempt to intimidate people into silence."

The statement, dated Monday, was released yesterday on behalf of 39 board members by T. H. Poole Sr., who describes himself as Dr. Gibson's "speaker of the House" on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's 64-member board of directors.

Dr. Gibson has been accused by syndicated columnist Carl T. Rowan of spending NAACP funds extravagantly and being reimbursed for expenses already charged to an NAACP credit card. The Maryland State NAACP called last week for Dr. Gibson and Mr. Poole to resign.

Mr. Poole said in an interview yesterday that the one-page statement shows "clear, overwhelming majority support for the chairman." Mr. Poole said the statement should dispel any speculation about an ouster of Dr. Gibson, a 62-year-old South Carolina dentist who is up for re-election in February.

"There's a silent majority that has not spoken, and they don't intend to handle association business in the press," said Mr. Poole, 67, a bail bondsman and retired educator in Eustis, Fla.

The statement also reported that the president of the NAACP's Detroit branch had petitioned for the removal of two board members, Mr. Madison and Marc Stepp, because of "repeated irresponsible remarks" to the press. Members may be ousted by a two-thirds vote of the board.

Mr. Poole said the statement was not an endorsement of the Rev. Wendell Anthony's effort to remove Mr. Madison, a Washington radio talk show host, and Mr. Stepp, a retired Detroit union official who has been a major NAACP fund-raiser.

Mr. Anthony could not be reached. But Mr. Madison called the statement an "attempt to purge and intimidate."

"I have the right as a board member to express myself, not only to brag about things that are positive, but also to criticize things that are negative," Mr. Madison said. "If more people had not been as silent as they have been, we might not be in the financial situation we're in now."

The NAACP faces a deficit of nearly $4 million, and most of the Baltimore-based organization's staff is on a fifth consecutive week of unpaid furlough. The 85-year-old group has been rocked over the past six months by news of its financial crisis, the firing of then-Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. and the allegations about Dr. Gibson's spending.

"Given the financial instability of the association, quite honestly Poole and Gibson need to be about raising money, not trying to purge the board of members who are critical and who raise a lot of money," Mr. Madison said. "I probably speak to more local branches -- at my own expense -- than anybody on the board."

Dr. Gibson, who has been ill, was not available for comment.

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