Mfume quitting NAACP position
President for nine years of civil rights organization; Seeks more time
with six sons; Speculation includes run for Sarbanes Senate seat
By Kelly Brewington
November 30, 2004
Kweisi Mfume, a former Baltimore City councilman and U.S. congressman
who has led the NAACP for the past nine years, is expected to announce
his resignation from the civil rights organization today.
A source with knowledge of the announcement said last night that Mfume
is leaving voluntarily to explore opportunities including television,
business or politics.
Mfume, 56, has said he would like time off to spend with his six sons,
the youngest of whom is 14. He also reportedly is looking forward to a
break from the punishing schedule of leading the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation's oldest and largest
civil rights group.
Mfume will soon conclude his ninth year as NAACP president. He took
over the organization amid financial problems and turmoil under the
leadership of Benjamin Chavis.
After keeping a schedule that includes 65 trips a year on NAACP
business, the source said, Mfume will likely take a vacation after his
Mfume reportedly will serve as a consultant with the NAACP until the
end of the year. The organization is expected to begin a nationwide
search and have a new president by its next national convention in July
2005. According to NAACP rules, officers in the group cannot seek or
hold public office.
Political allies said Mfume is eyeing a run for the U.S. Senate seat
held by Paul S. Sarbanes, whose current term ends in 2006. Sarbanes is
71 and has not said publicly what his intentions are.
The last time Mfume considered a run for elective office was in 1999,
when he was urged to pursue the job of mayor of Baltimore. Although
Mfume was widely viewed as the presumptive favorite, he declined to
run, choosing instead to stay on as NAACP president.
Raymond V. Haysbert, a close friend of Mfume and former owner of Parks
Sausage Co., said he was disappointed to hear of Mfume's decision.
"I discussed his future with him some time ago," he said. "I recognized
then that the wear and tear was getting to him. I don't know about his
"I don't think any one person can stand it but for so long. He's on the
road so much. His versatility and broad background will be sorely
"I just believe he's served the nation well with the NAACP. Whatever
Kweisi's goals and visions are, I and others will support him," said
Glenard S. Middleton, a close friend of Mfume who is president of the
Baltimore chapter of the American Federation of State, County and
The Baltimore native began his political career as a dashiki-clad
political activist on the Baltimore City Council, first elected in 1979
on a campaign to "beat the bosses" and advocating for the poor and
After two terms on the council, he decided in 1986 to make a run for
the seat of Rep. Parren J. Mitchell, a retiring civil rights leader who
served 16 years in the House.
Defeating a black Republican, St. George I.B. Crosse III, in a bitter
contest for the 7th District seat, he embarked on a bridge-building
effort, forging a relationship with Mayor William Donald Schaefer and
reaching out to constituencies across a wide swath taking in such
diverse areas as Catonsville, West Baltimore and Hampden.
He followed in Mitchell's path in becoming a member of the House
Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee, and he matured into a
skilled legislative craftsman. He was instrumental in saving programs
that aided minority businesses. And he embraced issues outside the
traditional black agenda, from high-technology development to business
Within two years, he became a leader in the Congressional Black Caucus,
which elected him as one of two vice chairmen and, in December 1992, as
its chairman - a position that, with the election of a Democrat as
president, gave him a rising profile in Washington.
Sun staff writers Ivan Penn and Sheridan Lyons contributed to this
Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun