- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - Atlanta’s civil and human rights museum is conducting a national search for a new leader.

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights founding CEO Doug Shipman stepped down in early June, nearly a year after the museum opened. Nestled among other high-profile tourist attractions at one end of downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, the center seeks to connect the legacy of the civil rights movement to the civil and human rights struggles of the present day.

Shipman was a consultant when he came to the center’s organizing committee a decade ago. He said when his departure was announced in May that it’s time for him to move on and for the board of directors to find a long-term leader.

“Doug came on board for a 10-week pro-bono assignment 10 years ago,” former Atlanta mayor and center board chair Shirley Franklin said in telephone interview Friday. “We had him far longer than we ever dreamed was possible.”

Shipman will continue to serve on the center’s board.

“I am profoundly humbled that I was called upon to lead the effort to fulfill the hopes held by so many for so long,” Shipman said in a statement announcing his departure in May. “As we approach the first year anniversary, The Center has surpassed all expectations. The Center tells, not only the story of Atlanta’s role in the Civil Rights movement, but a global human rights story.”

A committee headed by Central Atlanta Progress president and founding center board member A.J. Robinson recently launched a national search for the center’s next head with the help of an executive search firm, Franklin said. The board is prepared for it to take six to eight months to find someone, she said.

“We certainly want someone who understands the topic, but more than anything we’re looking for a leader, someone who can pull people, resources and ideas together,” Franklin said, adding that experience leading another institution would be valuable.

In the meantime, center executive vice president Deborah Richardson has been appointed interim CEO.

The museum grew from a push by civil rights leaders, including Evelyn Lowery, Andrew Young and Vernon Jordan to tell the story of Atlanta’s legacy in the civil rights movement but also to link that struggled with other human rights struggles, including women’s rights and LGBT issues, as well as immigration and child labor.

Going forward, Franklin said the board hopes to expand programming at the museum. About 50,000 students visited the center in its first year, and the center has launched an endowment program to ensure that no school children are left out of that experience because of an inability to pay, she said.

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