Friday, November 1, 2002

NAACP chief won't run again

Norma Holt Davis had a turbulent 2 years

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Two years is apparently enough for Norma Holt Davis, who said Thursday that she would not seek another term as president of the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP.

Mrs. Davis, a lawyer, said she wants to dedicate more time to her law practice and achieving career goals.

"It has been a great opportunity to serve, but being president of the NAACP has taken up a lot of time," Mrs. Davis told the Enquirer in a phone interview Thursday. "I think I really need to devote my energies to my law practice because that is my livelihood."

Mrs. Davis' term ends Dec. 31. The organization's new president will take over Jan. 1. 2003.

Her successor will likely be Dr. Calvert Smith, a UC education professor. Dr. Smith was one of seven candidates chosen as new officers by the NAACP's nominating committee.

The NAACP will hold elections for officers and executive board members on Nov. 12. Dr. Smith, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, will run unopposed.

When Mrs. Davis was elected president at the end of 2000, she became only the second woman in 94 years to lead the local civil rights group. The first was former city councilwoman and civil rights activist Marian Spencer.

She succeeded Dr. Milton Hinton, a popular and influential community leader who retired after six years at the helm.

Mrs. Davis oversaw the NAACP during one of Cincinnati's most turbulent times. Just three months after Mrs. Davis assumed the presidency, the city was torn apart by riots sparked by the fatal shooting of fleeing unarmed African-American man by police.

Mrs. Davis responded to the civil unrest by arranging for NAACP National President Kweisi Mfume to visit Cincinnati and pledge his support to the fight against police brutality and economic injustice.

Under her leadership, the NAACP also had to deal with the controversial boycott of downtown. Mrs. Davis tried to maintain a neutral stance on the boycott, but was encouraged by the organization's national leadership to move the NAACP's annual Freedom Fund Dinner from downtown to Coney Island.

The move drew criticism from some city and business leaders, as well as members of the local chapter.

"She withstood a difficult test. She had to lead through some very difficult times," said Edith Thrower, chairman of the NAACP's education committee. "Under the circumstances, she did the best she could.

"It was a very sensitive time with very sensitive issues," Ms. Thrower said. "She was looked to and scrutinized for aggressive leadership by the community and NAACP membership."

Several NAACP members described Mrs. Davis as a "by-the-book leader" who rarely strayed from standard operating procedures and protocols. Many said they admired her personal strength and perseverance through tough times.

"As with any leader, everybody did not agree with some of her decisions as president, but she made the decisions that she felt were for the good of the organization," said Victoria Wright Holloway, NAACP third vice president. "She had no hidden agenda. She simply loved the NAACP."

Juanita Adams, NAACP first vice-president, said Mrs. Davis brought her own style and wisdom to the organization.

"It was a plus for the NAACP to have someone of her caliber and legal mind at the helm during these past two years," Ms. Adams said. "I think she was just becoming seasoned. I wish she would have stuck around a little while longer."

Other nominees for office include: Ishton Morton, first vice president; Herbert Walker, second vice president; Dr. Barbara Twitty and Ms. Thrower, third vice president; Betty Bryant, secretary; and Charles Harris, treasurer.


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