WASHINGTON (AP) – The NAACP on Saturday announced that lawyer and activist Cornell William Brooks would become its new national president and CEO.
The selection of Brooks came as the nation celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court which outlawed segregation in public school, a lawsuit that was argued by the organization’s legal arm.
Brooks, 53, of Annandale, New Jersey, will become the organization’s 18th national president, replacing interim leader Lorraine Miller. Miller has been serving in that position since Benjamin Jealous ended his five-year tenure last year.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Brooks said he was looking forward to the work.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to be entrusted with the opportunity to lead this powerful historic organization,” Brooks said. “In our fight to ensure voting rights, economic equality, health equity, and ending racial discrimination for all people, there is indeed much work to be done.”
Brooks said he was particularly humbled that his selection came around the Brown v. Board anniversary.
“As a graduate of both Head Start and Yale Law School, I am a beneficiary, an heir and a grandson if you will of Brown versus Board of Education,” Brooks said. “My life is the direct product, if you will, of the legacy of the blood, sweat and tears of the NAACP and so today I’m particularly mindful that the NAACP has made America what it is, and certainly made my life possible and we are all grateful heirs of that legacy.”
NAACP chair Roslyn Brock said the organization’s board made a final decision Friday night, and told The Associated Press of the selection Saturday morning. Brooks will be formally presented to the Baltimore-based organization’s members at its national convention in Las Vegas in July.
“Mr. Brooks is a pioneering lawyer and civil rights leader who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the association,” Brock said. “We look forward to leveraging his legal prowess, vision and leadership as we tackle the pressing civil rights issues of the 21st century.”
The organization had hired The Hollins Group Inc., of Chicago to lead its search for a new CEO and Brooks was selected from more than 450 applications, Brock said. The organization held more than 30 interviews, she said.
Brooks, a minister who is originally from Georgetown, South Carolina, is currently president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, a Newark, New Jersey-based urban research and advocacy organization. He graduated from Jackson State University, received a Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology and got his law degree from Yale.
Brooks has worked as a lawyer for the Federal Communication Commission and the Justice Department. He also ran for Congress as a Democrat in Virginia in 1998. He still owns a home in Woodbridge, Virginia.
Brooks said he would immediately start talking to and listening to the NAACP’s membership to plan for the organization’s future. He said he would present his vision for the NAACP at the organization’s convention after he’s held conversations with the members.
“As long as America continues to be a great, but imperfect nation, there will be a need for the NAACP,” Brooks said.
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