Robert L. Woodson Sr., a pioneer in civil rights and community development, announced Thursday his retirement as president of the Woodson Center during the organization’s 40th anniversary celebration at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Woodson, 84, said he will take the role of president emeritus while the board launches a search for the next president of the center, a non-profit, non-partisan research institute that promotes free-market initiatives to turn around troubled communities.
“I could not be more excited about the next chapter of The Woodson Center,” said Mr. Woodson in a statement. “I have been honored to work with underserved communities across America, and I am excited to help this organization continue its mission in new creative ways, while passing on our principles to younger Americans.”
He added: “Our grassroots leaders have always epitomized American values in action: I can think of no better defenders of our nation’s founding values in the next generation than these neighborhood heroes.”
Founded in 1981 as the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, the organization was renamed in 2016 after Mr. Woodson, who founded it after serving as director of the National Urban League administration of justice division and the American Enterprise Institute’s Neighborhood Revitalization Project in Washington, D.C.
“Bob Woodson is a national treasure,” said board chairman Gregory L. Snyder. “His work with The Woodson Center has remained true to the principles that allow people to be agents of their own uplift. We’re grateful for his people-focused service, and look forward to working with him to find this type of servant leadership in the next president.”
The Woodson Center, founded on the premise that “grassroots leaders held the key to solving the problems of low-income communities,” has worked to empower local leaders in troubled neighborhoods to advance public safety, upward mobility and racial harmony.
“We appreciate the many people who have supported this work over the years, and invite those who care about redemption, personal agency and individual responsibility to join us in promoting these values to future generations,” Mr. Snyder said.
Last year, the Woodson Center launched 1776 Unites, a campaign and curriculum that promotes the “true founding values of our country,” acting as a foil to the leftist 1619 Project.
Also unveiled in 2020 was Voices of Black Mothers United, headed by Sylvia Bennett-Stone, to “address the distinct public safety and racial crisis facing American civic life in the 21st century.”
“When many of us felt forgotten and we lacked a voice, Mr. Woodson amplified our stories and our solutions,” Ms. Bennett-Stone said. “The work of The Woodson Center is life-changing, and we are all excited about continuing it for many years to come, with Mr. Woodson and our next president.”
In addition to the two 2020 initiatives, the Woodson Center leads a Violence Free Zone peer-mentors program and Community Affiliate Network, an anti-poverty training program.
“This Center was founded upon the principles that those suffering the problem must be involved in the creation and implementation of the solution; and that the principles of the market economy should be applied to the solutions of societal problems,” Mr. Woodson said.
“These values are much bigger than me - they are time-tested principles that we must unite around to apply to the problems of today, and the challenges of tomorrow.”
A 1990 recipient of a MacArthur Fellows “genius grant,” Mr. Woodson has written several books, including “Lessons from the Least of These: The Woodson Principles” (2020); “The Triumphs of Joseph: How Today’s Community Healers Are Reviving Our Streets and Neighborhoods” (2019), and “A Summons to Life: Mediating Structures and the Prevention of Youth Crime” (1989).
He served as senior editor for “Red, White, and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers,” which was released in May.