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 Marc H. Morial will lead the National Urban League
Former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial Named to Head National Urban League
By: George E. Curry
NNPA News Service

Originally posted 5/14/2003

WASHINGTON (NNPA)—Former New Orleans Mayor Marc H. Morial has been elected to succeed Hugh B. Price as president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League. In announcing the appointment on Thursday, Board of Trustees Chairman Michael J. Critelli, chairman and CEO of Pitney Bowes, Inc., said: “Marc Morial’s entire professional career has been focused on championing urban issues, and importantly, the socio-economic issues that significantly impact the League’s constituencies.

“We strongly felt that we needed a dynamic leader who understands and is committed to the League’s mission of equality and opportunity and is experienced at mobilizing diverse groups to achieve results.”

Morial becomes the League’s sixth chief executive since it was founded in 1910. He succeeds Hugh B. Price, who retired after nine years in the position.

“The National Urban League made great strides under the leadership of Hugh Price, and it is strategically positioned to be a great catalyst for progress in our urban communities,” Morial said in a statement issued after his appointment by the board.

Also in the running for president was Milton J. Little Jr., the organization’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. He has served as interim president since April 7, when Price left office.

Morial is expected to make his first appearance before the Urban League family in Pittsburgh at the organization’s annual conference in July.

A lawyer with the law firm of Adams and Reese, a powerful New Orleans firm, Morial is the son of Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial, New Orleans’ first African-American mayor, and Sybil Morial, a teacher and university administrator. Marc Morial was mayor of New Orleans from 1994 until last year, when he was ineligible to continue beyond his two terms.

When he left office, Morial had a stunning 70 percent approval rating among voters. He also developed a high national profile while serving as president of the United States Conference of Mayors in 2001 and 2002.

“We used a search firm and ended with almost 200 names,” one board member said. “We got that down from 20, to 10, to four and finally to one.”

An effective, telegenic public speaker with an easy-going manner, Morial is expected to cast a long shadow in the civil rights community similar to Urban League legends Whitney M. Young Jr. and Vernon E. Jordan Jr.

Unlike when Hugh Price took over, Morial will inherit a respected, financially sound and vibrant organization poised to become an even stronger voice on domestic issues. And at the age of 45, he is also expected to attract more young people to the 93-year-old organization.

The Urban League, which has an annual budget of more than $40 million, has more than 100 affiliates serving more than 2 million people. At its last national conference, 61 percent of those in attendance were female, 23 percent were between the ages of 30 and 44 and 37 percent were between 45 and 64. Half of the delegates earn more than $50,000 and 79 percent were college graduates.

Because it has more affluent delegates than any other national civil rights organization, the League has often been tagged with the label of being a bourgeois organization.

Price was particularly sensitive to that criticism during his nine-year tenure. In an interview with the NNPA News Service last fall, he said: “People have often said to me that the National Urban League is a middle-class organization. I’ve said to them, ‘If you are accusing us of trying to get poor people and working class people into the middle class, we plead guilty.’”

He also could have pleaded guilty to helping the league refine its image. Established a year after the NAACP, the Urban League was seen as the second-oldest civil rights organizations. And with the NAACP’s inflated membership numbers, it was seen as the second-largest group.

In recent years, the National Urban League has billed itself as “the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African-Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream.”

Its board is still dominated by corporate executives. Among major civil rights groups, it has perhaps the most integrated board.

Morial has proven that he can work well across racial lines and is credited with reducing racial tension in New Orleans. When he was elected for a second term, he became the first Black mayor to win a majority of the White vote while running against a White opponent.

Morial earned his bachelor of arts degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and graduated from Georgetown University Law School in 1983. He was involved in numerous civil rights cases as an attorney and was one of the lead plaintiffs in the “Chisom v. Roemer,” the U.S. Supreme Court cases that ruled that judicial elections are covered by the 1964 Voting Rights Act.

He was elected a state senator in 1991, where he served two years and co-authored more than 90 bills that became law. The “Baton Rouge Report” named him “Rookie of the Year.”

Morial was first elected mayor in 1994 at age 35. One of his major accomplishments was reforming a corrupt and inefficient police department, which led to a sharp drop in crime. Under his leadership, more than $1 billion was spent on construction projects.

In 1998, Morial became the first mayor to file suit against the gun industry, arguing that manufacturers did not go far enough in incorporating safety devices in their design of handguns.

Morial also has served as an adjunct professor of political science at Xavier University in New Orleans. He is married to Michelle Miller, a local newscaster.


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