WASHINGTON – NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous, who is credited with boosting finances at the nation’s largest civil rights organization and helping to stabilize it, said Sunday that he plans to step down at the end of the year.
The Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said that its rosters of online activists and donors have grown tremendously during his five-year tenure. Jealous was the group’s youngest-ever leader when he was hired as its president at age 35 in 2008.
In a written statement Sunday, Jealous, now 40, said he plans to pursue teaching at a university and wants to spend time with his young family.
“The NAACP has always been the largest civil rights organization in the streets, and today it is also the largest civil rights organization online, on mobile and at the ballot box too,” Jealous said. “I am proud to leave the association financially sound, sustainable, focused and more powerful than ever.”
Jealous plans to step down Dec. 31. His departure plans were first reported by USA Today, which said he was in the first year of a three-year contract.
Jealous told the newspaper he also plans to start a political action committee to raise money to elect diverse progressive candidates to public office, though not necessarily only Democrats. During President Barack Obama’s first campaign, Jealous said he teamed with others to create a fundraising group that raised $10 million to help elect the first black president.
Jealous is credited with improving the NAACP’s finances and donor base over the past five years. In the year before Jealous arrived, the NAACP cut its national staff by a third. Also that year, former NAACP President Bruce Gordon abruptly resigned because of differences with the group’s 64-member board.
The group said its donors have increased from 16,000 people giving each year to more than 132,000 under his leadership.
During Jealous’ tenure, the NAACP also has embraced gay rights in a historic vote to endorse same-sex marriage in May 2012. “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law,” the group said, citing the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock accepted Jealous’ resignation in the past week. She said the group would continue its fight to restore part of the Voting Rights Act that was recently struck down by the Supreme Court, as well as work to boost its civic engagement efforts and ensure that black Americans are able to obtain health insurance under the nation’s health care overhaul.
Brock thanked Jealous for his service.
“Under his leadership, the NAACP has built a highly competent staff that will carry our mission forward and meet the civil rights challenges of the 21st century,” she said.