Kweisi Mfume, NAACP president and chief executive officer, resigned Tuesday announcing that his service to the 95-year-old organization will end at year’s end.
Dennis C. Hayes, the association’s general counsel, will serve as acting president until the national search for a leader ends.
Mfume, who has held the position since 1996, focused on his role in reviving the association when he took office. Before then, the organization was in the shadow of former president Benjamin Chavis’s sex scandal and nearly bankrupt with a looming $3 million debt.
“For the last nine years I’ve had the honor and privilege to help revive and restore the nation’s oldest and largest civil right’s organization,” Mfume said in a statement. “The people I have met along the way and the lessons I have learned have been invaluable, but sadly for me the time has come to set sail and to chart a new course.”
Mfume left his position as a Congressional Representative to accept the leadership position offered by the NAACP. As a former Baltimore City Council member and a radio and television broadcaster, Mfume brought both political and financial contacts to the organization.
“Kweisi Mfume came to the NAACP when we were nearly bankrupt and our reputation under siege; he left sure re-election to the Congress to help save the NAACP,” Julian Bond, Chairman, NAACP National Board of Directors, said in a statement. “…he…restored us to solvency and to primacy among civil rights organizations…We are saddened by his departure, but wish him well in his future pursuits.”
With more than 500,000 members, the NAACP has nearly 2,000 adult branches, college chapters and youth councils on three continents to execute the founders’ mission of employment, housing and political protection.
Yet, some question the effectiveness of the association since President Bush declined to attend its annual conferences and meet with its leaders. During this year’s presidential election, Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP board, criticism of Bush led to the initiation of an IRS investigation. IRS officials suspect that the organization may have violated its tax-exempt status.
Mfume and other NAACP officials refute the grounds for the investigation, saying they would not endure possible court proceedings. Mfume’s leadership led the group to register more black voters during the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. The organization’s president filed discrimination lawsuits on behalf of black college students against the city of Daytona Beach, Fla. and Adams’ Mark hotel chain.
Mfume urged the group to “find new ways to break old habits.” He said, “Only by conforming to the reality of today’s battlefield do we avoid being consumed by it.”