- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2005

The next president of the NAACP will not be a political or social activist, but a former member of a Fortune 500 company, indicating a change in the organization’s focus.

A source within the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People confirmed yesterday that Bruce S. Gordon, former president of retail markets for Verizon Corp., will be the next president and chief executive officer of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.

“What is out there is more or less correct; he is the guy,” said a source within the organization, who asked not to be named. “There are 64 members on the board that still have to vote and actually they did a pretty good job keeping it quiet this long.”

Mr. Gordon, 56, is a specialist in communications marketing and had worked at Verizon for 37 years before retiring last year. In addition to his duties promoting Verizon services and products, Mr. Gordon also was responsible for diversity at the company. However, he has little civil rights experience and is a virtual unknown to the at-large NAACP membership.

The Washington Times reported in December that some NAACP leaders thought the organization would have to tone down its outwardly partisan stance, and that picking a politically neutral president would be the best start.

“I think it is a smart move for them to move away from celebrities and political animals and start running the organization like a business,” conservative commentator Armstrong Williams said.

“They are in financial trouble and they have to have a CEO to maintain the books; they don’t need two activists at the top,” he said referring to NAACP board Chairman Julian Bond and past President Kweisi Mfume, who is now running for a Maryland Senate seat.

But longtime grass-roots activists said it is the wrong move.

The Rev. Emmett C. Burns Jr., deputy majority whip in the Maryland House and a candidate for the job, said the organization should not succumb to outside pressure by trying to appear as if it is a business rather than a civil rights group. Mr. Burns, a Democrat, is a lifelong NAACP member.

“I know he comes with very high credentials and a record of success with Verizon, and I understand he is an expert at communications, but that is not what the NAACP needs,” he said. “The NAACP is not a corporation and anyone who tries to make it a corporation is going to fail.”

The NAACP is experiencing some of its most tumultuous times since the early 1990s, when its former president, Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., resigned after being caught in a sex scandal. He paid his former assistant more than $300,000 in a sealed settlement without notifying the organization, and left it in near financial ruin.

Last year, President Bush, increasingly dissatisfied with the Democratic-leaning partisan attacks of Mr. Bond, snubbed the group a third time by declining to speak at its annual convention in a presidential election year. And the Internal Revenue Service began investigating the group for being too partisan and threatened to take away its tax-exempt status — a battle that is still being waged.

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