The NAACP board of directors has chosen Ben Jealous, a former news executive and lifelong activist, as the organization's next president and the youngest in its 99-year history.
The 64-member board met and voted in Baltimore on Friday and plans to formally announce its decision on Saturday at a noon press conference.
NAACP national spokesman Richard J. McIntire confirmed the vote with The Associated Press early Saturday after the 8-hour closed door meeting.
Though he is not a politician, minister or civil rights icon, in Jealous the organization gets a young but connected leader familiar with black leadership and social justice issues. The 35-year-old takes the helm as the NAACP's 17th president just months before the organization's centennial anniversary, as the group grapples with dwindling membership and looks to boost its coffers.
"There are a small number of groups to whom all black people in this country owe a debt of gratitude, and the NAACP is one of them," Jealous told The Associated Press in a telephone interview before the vote. "There is work that is undone ... the need continues and our children continue to be at great risk in this country."
Jealous succeeds Bruce Gordon, who resigned abruptly in March 2007. Gordon left after 19 months, citing clashes with board members over management style and the NAACP's mission as his reasons for leaving. Dennis Courtland Hayes had been serving as interim president and chief executive officer.
Jealous said his plans for the group include strengthening its online presence to connect with activists, mobilize public opinion and build a database for tracking racial discrimination and hate crimes; ensuring high voter turnout among blacks in the November election; pushing an aggressive civil rights agenda, regardless of the makeup of the Congress or White House; and retooling the national office to make it more effective at helping local branches affect change in their communities.
The NAACP was founded in 1909 by an interracial coalition that battled segregation and lynching and helped win some of the nation's biggest civil rights victories. But in the wake of racial advances, membership has dwindled and the organization has run a deficit in recent years.