NAACP Picks New CEO Amid Financial Crunch

May 19, 2014       Mark Hrywna      

A longtime lawyer, human rights activist and ordained minister will become next president and CEO of the NAACP. The national Board of Directors announced on Saturday — the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision — the appointment of Cornell William Brooks as its next president and CEO.

For the past seven years, the 53-year-old Brooks has been president and CEO at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, a research and advocacy organization dedicated to the “advancement of New Jersey’s residents and urban areas.” He will become the 18th person to oversee operations at the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization in its 105-year history, succeeding Benjamin Jealous, who stepped down last year.

The appointment comes after the recent resignation of the NAACP’s Los Angeles chapter president and the announcement of plans to cut about 7 percent of staff at its Baltimore, Md. headquarters.

“Mr. Brooks is a pioneering lawyer and civil rights leader, who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the association. We look forward to leveraging this legal prowess, vision and leadership as we tackle the pressing civil rights issues of the 21st century,” said Roslyn Brock, chairman of the Board of Directors.

Brooks led the effort to create a new five-year strategic plan for the $1.6-million Institute for Social Justice. As president/CEO, he earned about $241,000 last year. In 2010, he served on the Homeland Security and Corrections Committee of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s transition team. He also is a member of the board of East Orange General Hospital and the NJN/Public Broadcasting Authority Board.

Brooks earned a bachelor of arts from Jackson State University, a master of divinity from Boston University School of Theology and a law degree from Yale Law School.

He previously worked as senior counsel with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington, and as a trial attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. In 1998, he ran as the Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress for the 10th District of Virginia, comprised of several counties in northern Virginia, along the Maryland border.

“In our fight to ensure voting rights, economic equality, health equity, and an end to racial discrimination for all people, there is much work to do,” Brooks said. “I look forward to working with the dynamic board and staff, and continuing the important work of the association in advancing racial and social justice and equality for all,” he said.

The Hollins Group in Chicago, Ill. conducted the national search for the new president and CEO, reviewing more than 450 applications, meeting with 30 semi-finalists and interviews with the national board. Brooks will be formally introduced at the organization’s national convention in July in Las Vegas, Nev.

The national office released a 94-word statement that offered few details: “Like many nonprofits in transition during a difficult economic climate, the NAACP has taken proactive steps to improve the financial stability of the 105-year-old Association moving forward. In furtherance of this goal the National NAACP is undergoing a 7 percent reduction in staff. We believe this step will yield a leaner, more nimble organization for the 21st century.

“The NAACP will remain steadfast and undeterred as we continue to advance the mission of the NAACP – to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of all persons to eliminate race-based discrimination.”

Past President and CEO Benjamin Jealous is credited with growing the NAACP’s donor base and stabilizing its finances before leaving at the end of 2013. He was the youngest-ever CEO of the 105-year-old NAACP when he was appointed in 2008. He succeeded Bruce Gordon, who served less than two years as CEO amid differences with former board chairman Julian Bond.

The Center for American Progress announced that Jealous would be a Senior Fellow focused on tracing political trends impacting civil and human rights. In March, he joined Kapor Capital, an Oakland, Calif.-based venture capital firm dedicated to socially conscious investing, and its Kapor Center for Social Impact.

The national organization’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990 for 2012, the most recent year available, reported $43.2 million in total revenue and 181 individuals employed during calendar year 2012. Turner did not have an estimate for 2013 revenue. As CEO, Jealous earned total compensation of about $320,000 last year.

Earlier this month, the president of the NAACP’s Los Angeles chapter, Leon Jenkins, stepped down amid questions and criticisms about the organization honoring Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. The chapter was to honor Sterling with a second lifetime achievement award at its centennial gala this month but canceled the offer after a recorded conversation made public indicated he made derogatory remarks about minorities.