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NAACP to Name Corporate Executive as its next President
By: Makebra M. Anderson
NNPA National Correspondent
Originally posted 6/13/2005

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A special NAACP search committee has recommended that former President and CEO Kweisi Mufume be succeeded by Bruce Gordon, a former senior executive at Verizon. The full board is expected to accept the recommendation when it meets June 25 in Atlanta.

“I think this is an excellent choice. I think it’s the best choice the NAACP has made since they had [Benjamin L.] Hooks,” says Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. “Gordon has good corporate executive experience, but he’s also been in charge of diversity over at Verizon, so he knows how and what a major corporation can do.”

The selection of Gordon caught even some board members by surprise. Acting President Dennis Hayes did not learn of the selection until the story was broken last Friday by April Ryan on American Urban Radio Network.

An unknown in the civil rights movement, Gordon’s impending confirmation is expected to alter some of the friction that previously existed – but was publicly denied – between the association’s president and Board Chairman Julian Bond. It also means that Bond will serve as the primary face and voice of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization while Gordon assumes a less public role, applying his management skills to improve the NAACP.

Although Mfume had good business sense, Alford, who has worked closely with Gordon, says that his leverage will allow the NAACP to tap into new resources.

“Civil rights is about equal opportunity for all,” Alford says. “Now the NAACP can go to IBM, and go to GM and others and say, ‘I’ve been there, I know how to do it.’”

After a successful, 35-year career, Gordon retired from Verizon in December 2003 after serving as president of Retail Markets in Verizon’s Domestic Telecom unit. As head of Retail Markets, he was responsible for the company’s consumer and small-business sales.

Many NAACP insiders think the nine-member NAACP presidential search committee chose Gordon for his business acumen. Committee members were: Bond; Roslyn Brock, vice-chair, NAACP Board; Rupert Richardson, member, NAACP Board; former Republican Congressman Jack Kemp; Hugh B. Price, former president, the National Urban League; Alice Huffman, member, NAACP Board; Philip Murphy, managing director, Investment Management Division, Goldman, Sachs & Co. and member, NAACP SCF Trustee Board; Coleman Peterson, President/CEO Hollis Enterprises, LLC and member, NAACP SCF Trustee Board and Nicholas Wiggins, NAACP Youth Board Member.

According to some, Board Chairman Julian Bond wanted someone with excellent fundraising abilities and unquestioned business savvy.

The telecommunications industry veteran brought in $25 billion in annual revenue through his unit. He managed 34,000 employees and served 33 million customers. He also helped establish a networking and mentoring group for Black men at Verizon.

In July 2002, Fortune Magazine named Gordon to its list of the “50 Most Powerful Black Executives” and Black Enterprise magazine named him “1998 Executive of the Year.”

In a statement, Bond says, “The search for a new chief executive office has been a long process involving potential candidates from across the country. I think we will present the Board with an outstanding candidate who will lead the NAACP on its important mission for justice and civil rights for all Americans.”

This has been a turbulent year for the 96-year-old civil rights group. When the NAACP’s board of directors declined to renew Mfume’s contract last November after nine years of service, some insisted that it was because of internal conflicts between Mfume and Bond. The organization is in the middle of a battle with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS threatened to revoke the organization’s tax-exempt status because of Bond’s criticism of President George Bush and the NAACP annual convention.

Alford says that it’s time for the organization to get past the finger pointing, whooping and hollering and focus on getting down to business.

“I think over the recent history of the NAACP – the last 15 or 20 years I think they finally got someone here that can take them into the 21st Century and get the ear of a lot of people of power from the White House on down – and the White House on down will listen to a Bruce Gordon,” he said. “This is good for African-Americans and America. This is about action. Being that he doesn’t come with baggage or with a perception, people are going to listen. The CEOs and Senators and Congress people are going to look at him, check him out and say, ‘Hey this guy is pretty sharp.’”

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