Infighting over NAACP Chairman William Gibson’s spending habits raged Friday as a judge refused to block a weekend election for Gibson’s job and his only challenger said donations may dry up if Gibson stays.
“So many people are waiting for what the outcome will be, and they are waiting with checkbooks in hand,” said Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain NAACP leader Medgar Evers, as she campaigned to unseat Gibson.
Informal tallies gave Gibson a majority of votes going into today’s election. But a band of dissidents who want to oust Gibson closed the gap slightly Friday, winning three of seven at-large seats on the 64-member board of directors.
However, the dissidents suffered a blow in court, as a state Supreme Court justice refused to delay the election until the board could learn the results of an audit of Gibson’s expense accounts.
Gibson has been accused of spending NAACP money on himself and making poor financial decisions that drove the nation’s oldest civil rights group $3 million into debt.
He has denied any wrongdoing, contending his critics are out to ruin his reputation so they can take control of the 86-year-old National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Evers-Williams said it would be unfair to hold Gibson solely responsible for the debt, saying, “The responsibility, I feel, rests with all of us.”
She added that, if elected, she would work to heal relationships ruptured by the bitter battle over Gibson’s leadership. However, she also said she is “very fearful” for the NAACP’s survival “if we don’t settle these things tomorrow.”
“The NAACP is in trouble,” she said. “Our voice has not been heard recently.”
Privately, some board members said they didn’t think Gibson would try to repair damaged relationships. And they said that if Gibson emerges victorious, there would be so much bitterness on the board that the NAACP would be unable to accomplish anything.
“You’d have to swallow some things of immense proportions, that there ain’t nothing wrong with him anymore,” said one key board member who spoke on condition of anonymity.