Gordon resigns as President of NAACP

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Bruce S. Gordon

NEW YORK (AP) — NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon is quitting the civil rights organization, leaving after just 19 months at the helm, he told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Gordon cited growing strain with board members over the group’s management style and future operations.

“I believe that any organization that’s going to be effective will only be effective if the board and the CEO are aligned and I don’t think we are aligned,” Gordon said. “This compromises the ability of the board to be as effective as it can be.”

Gordon said he will give up his duties before month’s end. He spoke by phone from Los Angeles, where he attended the NAACP Image Awards.

Dennis C. Hayes, general counsel of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is expected to serve as interim president, Gordon said. Hayes filled the same role after Kweisi Mfume resigned the presidency in 2004 after nine years.

Gordon said that while the NAACP is an advocacy organization, it needs to be more focused on service and finding solutions.

“I’m used to a CEO running an organization, with the board approving strategy and policy,” Gordon said. “But the NAACP board is very much involved.”

Gordon said he made the decision in recent weeks and told the board at its annual meeting in New York City in mid-February.

NAACP leaders were surprised by his decision and engaged in hours of discussion, he said.

“They expressed disappointment,” Gordon said. “We attempted to see whether there was a way to continue but that didn’t happen.”

Gordon sounded weary as he boarded a flight home to New York City on Sunday.

“I don’t view this as I’m right and they’re wrong. I view this as I see things one way and they see things a different way,” he said. “That misalignment between the CEO and the board is unhealthy.”

Asked about his plans after leaving the NAACP, Gordon said: “I’m going to catch my breath.”

“What I’ve clearly learned in my tenure here is that all is not well in black America, that’s for sure,” he said. “I believe I have a lot to offer. I’ve got to find a way to be engaged that optimizes what it is I bring to the table. My intention is not to disengage, but to find a different way.”

NAACP spokesman Richard McIntire declined to comment.

Gordon, 61, was a surprise pick for the NAACP’s top post. When he took over on August 1, 2005, he had no track record in traditional civil rights circles. He had spent 35 years in the telecommunications industry and retired in 2003 from his post as president of the Retail Markets Group for Verizon Corp.

Critics said he wouldn’t be a good fit for the nearly 98-year-old organization.

However, he smoothed strained relations between the NAACP and the White House, meeting with President Bush three times in less than a year. He used his corporate ties to lend quick assistance to black New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina. And he hired a number of key national employees whose reputations inspired staff members.

Gordon “brought a level of competence that we hadn’t had,” Julian Bond, chairman of the board, said last year.

Bond also has acknowledged that, with 64 members, the NAACP’s board of directors is large and sometimes unwieldy. But he has defended it, saying it allows a wide range of members voices to be heard.

Ronald Walters, a University of Maryland political science professor who has followed the NAACP closely for years, was surprised at the news, but added that he had suspected that Gordon may not fit in at the NAACP.

“I thought very early on that there might be a cultural conflict,” Walters said. “Somebody who came out of a corporate culture and was used to a set of agenda items and management style in one field might not have been able to make the adjustment totally to another field.”

7 thoughts on “Gordon resigns as President of NAACP

  1. rikyrah

    I was so sad about this. Gordon had the right idea. When he spoke about McDonald’s at the State of the Black Union and their succession plan, I thought ‘ he gets it’. ‘He gets it’.

    Our organizations are not prepared to move into the next century. They have no succession plan, and Gordon understands why this is wrong.

    I am so disappointed. I thought the NAACP could finally have a future of importance and possible relevance.

    Well, Mr. Gordon can go and enjoy that corporate money he earned. He tried the ’service thing’, but some folks don’t want to come into this century.

  2. Besides giving you an egostroke yesterday and applaud for your efforts, I spent my other free time I could find at the job trying to get to the bottom of this. My heart kind-of broke. Eventhough I was not a member, I was considering it just because of him…not those slow, outdated members that have looked down on me.

    Skeptical Brotha…I was surprised but then, not surprised. I understood more than most people would and could. I do/did Uppity Negro and it was and is too much for Black People. All the Black Organizations I have encountered or researched are not ready for innovation or new ideas. They are stuck and like being stuck. If you are not preaching what they want to hear in advocating celebrating on the ceremony of victimization and the institution of staying stuck in that mindset, they will come after you. It’s not White People. It is their mindsets that have not evolved with understanding that we have to adapt and it understandably scary at first going through that induction to change.

    I wondered how long he was going to last with the NAACP having never had the opportunity to meet him but having known how they as a brand operate to not operate with innovation and hunger to become inventive, I thought he was the missing link. That is and was a lot I put and betted on him but he is a winner. I thought he was too smart, tactical, altruistic, and passionate for them.

    Last year when they had their annual convention here in Washington, I was set up exhibiting at Eastern Market on Capital Hill. There were a small contingent of members that ventured down to the Market. This is the kicker: out of all the Black members that were down there and stopped to gawk, snicker, and sneer at my exhibit, it was the White NAACP member and his wife that supported me. The White Male NAACP was forward thinking and passionate. He coaxed his fellow Black members but they would not budge. I was embarrassed and he and his wife was embarrassed. I had just read some of Mr. Gordon’s statements prior and I deducted that he had some work on his hands. I could tell he was progressive and I that he was mismatched as well but I thought that was the proper prescription to remedy the regressive organization. Come on: it was the annual convention and they were just grandstanding with a march (a non-threatening antic of ceremony) and I was there fearless and alone on Capital Hill more proud to Black than then and so was the White Couple.

    I was hoping that one day I would talk and meet Mr. Gordon between my ass-whippings and snides from the Black Establishment. I could definitely tell he was not an elitist but that he was an advocate of the being the best. I considered him a cut-above, completely fascinating, tirelessly ethical, and most of all…inspiring. He was too good for the present NAACP but W.E.B would definitely had his back.

  3. As a Civil Rights government worker, I can see both sides of the issue, and all of you make good points, but consider this:

    The old soldiers won’t give up the helm until the younger ones demonstrate they can lead. That means not giving up when the road gets rough; not selling out, because it’s easier than sticking to principles; and a willingness to fight to the end rather than settle for instant and immediate gratification.

    Doing work in Civil Rights is not, and never has been for the faint of heart. There was skepticism from the start about Bruce Gordon because he was coming from a corporate background. I’m not saying that it’s neither right nor wrong, but there’s some hypocracy on the NAACP’s part because their whole operation has become financed with corporate cash. Consider how ineffective they have been over the last decade. That’s because you can’t go after a company for discrimination issues if they’re giving you a check. In that sense the NAACP badly compromised itself and sold out their credibility. When Kweisi Mfume came on the scene, he got rid of the corporate donors and rebuilt the organization. I think Gordon was going to build upon what Mfume left behind (if only Kweisi learned how to keep it in his pants…)

    They have seen what’s happened in the CBC, when the younger leaders took over. You had 30% of the CBC voting for bad legislation such as the BK bill, Estate Tax repeal, the COPE act (net neutrality), and other bills that don’t do shit for the Black community but make it worse. And these are the people who claim they are the conscience of the Congress.

    Before you hate, go check out the CBC Monitor Report Card, which can be found at http://www.cbcmonitor.voxunion.com. I am the Sr. Researcher who assists in getting that report card published, and when you ask John Conyers why the hell he’s still sitting in Congress when he should be retired, he said to me, personally, that he couldn’t entrust the CBC to the likes of Artur Davis or Harold Ford, because of the quickness with which they sold out the interests of their own districts to curry favor with corporate interests. They want to be “New Black Leaders” without investing blood, sweat and tears for what is right, noble and just. I think this is part of the reason Skeptical Brotha is hard on Obama – how can you aspire to be leaders when you haven’t passed those tests that make you a leader?

    When you have to go it alone, because you’re the only one who knows what’s right;
    When you have to take a stand, even if no one else stands with you;
    When you’re so convicted of your beliefs and values that no amount of money can make you turn away;
    When you’re willing to be jailed for what is right;
    When you’re willing to die, so that others might live.

    These soldiers knew what the price was to pay for equality and freedom. And, I’m sorry that those that you encountered, Andrea, were numbnuts who probably cursed out and talked about Martin behind his back, and riding on his coattails today.

    It requires bravery and courage of convictions and values. Something that money can’t buy. And once you prove that, if the old guard isn’t convinced, then you can talk about putting them in “emeritus” status – give them a title, but you are the ones really getting the job done.

    We got CBC Monitor off the ground not by waiting for blessings from Conyers and the like. They didn’t approve of our work, either, until it started highlighting who the bad actors were. While they still don’t like being evaluated, what’s the word you’ve heard from Obama all year? ACCOUNTABILITY. Though he’s an “Underachiever” on the Report Cards, I have hope he’ll improve, especially with SB breathing down his neck, LOL.

    Anyway, that’s my $0.02.

  4. Andrea, Political Junkie

    Y’all thanks for your continued support and thoughtful words. Y’all are the reason why I’m out here. I feel lost sometimes, like a voice in the wilderness. It feels good to have you to come home to. Empirically, neither the NAACP or the CBC passes the smell test. The CBC abdicated much ground to their so-called leadership. The NAACP has done nothing to pressure the CBC to lead on our behalf. So that leaves us out here in the wilderness struggling to be heard and forcing the powerful to be accountable. I don’t intend to stop, but sometimes I just get so tired.

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