New president for NAACP's Baltimore branch Bid for delegate seat contributed to loss, says incumbent Orange

November 25, 1998|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

After five years as head of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP, Rodney A. Orange lost the presidency in the organization's election this week.

G. I. Johnson, the local NAACP's first vice president, will replace Orange Jan. 1, after winning by a vote of 77-27 Monday night. Johnson has worked in the leadership of the branch for 12 years, six of those as first vice president.

Orange, 56, who was forced to temporarily step down from the presidency in July while he ran for the state House of Delegates, said he believes that one of the primary reasons he lost his seat was because he had to leave the organization in order to pursue public office.

The national office of the NAACP maintains a policy that prohibits candidates for public office from serving as officers in the organization, to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

"Clearly the fact that I had to step down was an added disadvantage," Orange said. "No question about it. My opponent had the opportunity to put his election campaign in place. I'm disappointed, but I'm really not upset."

Orange lost his run for one of three House seats in West Baltimore's 44th District during September's primary election. After his NAACP term ends Dec. 31, he said he will spend more time working with other organizations in which he participates.

Johnson, who took Orange's place while he campaigned for political office, declined to say whether Orange's delegate campaign played a role in his loss of the presidency. "We ran a good, fair election," he said.

Johnson, 61, said he wants to increase membership -- now at about 2,000 -- with an emphasis on recruiting young people and church leaders, who have traditionally played an important role in the organization.

"We're going to take a reassessment," Johnson said. "I'm determined to bring the youth here to have them actively participate in the organization."

Johnson will have to rebuild a branch that suffered financial troubles in the early 1990s, which led the organization to lay off executive director George N. Buntin Jr. three years ago. The executive director post remains vacant.

With the NAACP's national office based in Baltimore, Johnson said he believes the branch should be stronger than it has been. He said he wants to make the organization more visible and have a closer relationship with the national office.

"We certainly have to reach out and communicate more with the national office," Johnson said. "I think in doing that it certainly will strengthen the branch office more."

Pub Date: 11/25/98

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