Killeen NAACP President TaNeika Driver-Moultrie said the civil rights organization’s newly appointed national president, Cornell William Brooks, was the most qualified for the job, all gender questions aside.
Brooks, 53, of Annandale, N.J., will become the NAACP’s 18th national president, replacing female interim leader Lorraine Miller, who has served in that position since Benjamin Jealous ended his five-year tenure last year.
The national NAACP has never had a woman fill the role of president permanently, although there were several cries from professors, columnists and online petitioners to appoint one after Jealous stepped down.
“There were 450 applicants for the position, and bottom line, I don’t think it comes down to gender, I think it comes down to who is best able to lead the oldest civil rights organization in the United States,” said Driver-Moultrie, explaining the new president was picked by a panel made up of a variety of members nationwide.
Nevertheless, longtime resident, NAACP member and the first-ever female Killeen City Councilwoman Rosa Hereford said women should be given a chance.
“This is falling in line with a lot of what’s happening now in places involving women in top leadership positions,” Hereford said, paralleling the situation to the first female New York Times Editor Jill Abramson who recently was fired.
Hereford said women need to be given more opportunities in high leadership positions, to prove and improve their qualifications.
“A woman shouldn’t have to start her own business in order to run one,” she said.
Roslyn M. Brock, the chairwoman of the national board of directors for the NAACP, remains the highest ranking woman in the organization.
Brooks, a minister, is originally from Georgetown, S.C. He is president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, a Newark, N.J.-based urban research and advocacy organization.
He graduated from Jackson State University, received a master of divinity from Boston University School of Theology and got his law degree from Yale.
Brooks has worked as a lawyer for the Federal Communication Commission and the Justice Department.
He also ran for Congress as a Democrat in Virginia in 1998. He owns a home in Woodbridge, Va.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to be entrusted with the opportunity to lead this powerful historic organization,” Brooks said in an interview.
“In our fight to ensure voting rights, economic equality, health equity, and ending racial discrimination for all people, there is indeed much work to be done.”
On Friday, the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision that said separating black and white children was unconstitutional, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization announced Brooks’ selection.
As a Head Start and Yale Law School graduate, Brooks calls himself a direct beneficiary of Brown v. Board of Education.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.