In a surprise move, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, 40, has announced that he is stepping down from the position in January, 2014, reports USA Today.
“Leadership knows when to step up and when to step down,” Jealous said. “This day I can say with pride that I’m prepared to step down and make room for the next person who will lead this organization to its next chapter.”
Citing family reasons, Jealous said that his high-profile career has caused him to sacrifice time with his wife, Lia Epperson, and children, daughter Morgan, 7, and Jack, 13 months, and that is something that he intends to change.
Still, the hum of the Civil Rights Movement still courses through Jealous’ veins: “I’m really going to miss the street fights we’ve been in.”
The civil rights leader said he’s satisfied that he will leave an organization in much better condition than it was when he took over five years ago. Back then, the Baltimore-based civil rights group was financially shaky and shouldering constant criticism that its aging leadership was out of touch. Now, the organization is solvent, social media savvy and its staff seems to be part of a new cadre of leaders — headed by President Obama — who are diverse, well-educated and visible.
“In the last five years, we’ve had double-digit revenue growth, we’ve spent five years in the black,” Jealous said.
Under Jealous, the donor base has grown from 16,422 in 2007, just before he started, to 132,543 last year. Revenue has grown from $25.7 million in 2008 to $46 million in 2012. Out of a total score of 70, independent non-profit reviewing organization Charity Navigator gives the NAACP 51.42 for finances and 70 for accountability and transparency.
When Jealous came in at age 35, he was hailed as the youngest leader of the organization in its history, although some questioned whether he was old enough to serve, and the board vote approving him was close. As a lifelong activist, he was known in the civil rights community but not by the general public. Over the years, he changed that, appearing in public constantly, often alongside other civil rights leaders. If there was a major regional or national civil rights event, Jealous was often there with rolled-up sleeves.
Jealous has had bumps too. In 2010, he faced criticism when he condemned black USDA employee Shirley Sherrod after a deceptively edited video appeared to show her making biased remarks about her work with a white farmer. Sherrod’s comments were actually part of a longer speech in which she discussed overcoming her prejudices.