- Associated Press - Sunday, February 7, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The new leader of the Missouri State NAACP says he plans to build a younger, more inclusive organization that will work for various causes around the state.

Nimrod “Rod” Chapel Jr., 45, elected last month as the 14th President of the Missouri State NAACP, said he looks forward to moving the organization forward, giving it a bigger voice statewide and opening to other progressive groups and younger people, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1Q03Pfb ).

“A lot of the challenges come from the graying of our membership,” Chapel said. “Younger people like millennials have the same objectives, but the way they express themselves is not the same.”

Chapel replaced Mary Ratliff, who stepped down after 30 years. He said it is essential to include leaders of groups such as Black Lives Matter, which rose to prominence after the Ferguson police shooting of Michael Brown, and Concerned Student 1950, which organized protests at the University of Missouri that ultimately led to the resignation of university system President Timothy M. Wolfe.

“There is room in the organization, and we need to make sure they know that,” Chapel said.

Chapel has also named a new executive committee that includes former Gov. Bob Holden and lawyer and radio talk show host Jane Dueker. Dueker is believed to be the first white female on the governing board in the Missouri chapter’s 107-year history.

Chapel has been a longtime leader of the Jefferson City chapter and Ratliff oversaw the neighboring Columbia chapter, in addition to her role as state president. Both plan to keep their city branch positions, and Ratliff will remain on the executive board while Chapel serves as president.

“Rod and I are not close, but I can work with anybody working in civil rights and doing the right things,” Ratliff said.

Chapel has also promised to reach out to other organizations fighting for similar causes, such as abolishing the death penalty and overhauling the court system. One of his first calls was to Charles Smith, president of the Missouri National Education Association.

“It’s the first time the NAACP has reached out to me as an organization, with 35,000 members. It’s all about working together. Together, we accomplish more,” Smith said.

The Rev. B.T. Rice, a vice president of the St. Louis County NAACP chapter, said he looks forward to Chapel’s leadership.

“I think he will really bring some good, fresh leadership,” Rice said.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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