The nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization has selected a longtime housing activist and a minister as its new president and CEO.
An overwhelming majority of the organization’s board of directors picked Cornell William Brooks late Friday night during a meeting in Fort Lauderdale, NAACP chairwoman Roslyn Brock told USA TODAY. Brooks replaces former president Benjamin Todd Jealous, who announced his resignation last September, saying that he wanted to spend more time with his family.
In a telephone interview with USA TODAY, Brooks said he plans to “fight to insure voting rights, economic equality, health equity and an end to racial discrimination for all people.”
Brooks, 53, who lives in Woodbridge, Va., with his wife, Janice, and two sons, is executive director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and an ordained minister. He referenced the milestone anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision that mandated educational equality in explaining his thoughts on his selection.
“With today being the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education … I’m a graduate of Yale Law School, I am an heir, a benficiary, a grandson of Brown v. Board of Education, so as a consequence, I am an heir to the legacy of the NAACP,” Brooks said in a telephone interview. It is the “sacrifice of members past and present that led to me being where I am,” he said.
“I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity,” Brooks added.
Brooks also is former senior counsel with the Federal Communications Commission and a former trial attorney with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. At Yale Law School, he was senior editor of the Yale Law Journal. He has a master’s degree in divinity from Boston University.
“Attorney Brooks is a long-term lawyer, a human rights activist and a fourth-generation ordained minister and so we look forward to leveraging his experience … and his keen vision,” Brock said.
Jealous, now a partner at Kapor Capital and senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, congratulated Brooks in a statement.