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NAACP Bradford Brown

Civil rights leader garners respect

By Johnston Ayala
Miami News Service

January 12, 2003

As first vice president of the NAACP's Miami-Dade County branch, Bradford Brown was used to stepping in for the president, Bishop Victor T. Curry when the pastor's duties at New Birth Baptist Church kept him from meetings or appointments.

But when Curry resigned unexpectedly as branch president of the nation's oldest civil rights organization a year and a half ago, Brown had to assess the implications of taking over the leadership.

"When you're vice president, you don't really expect the president to leave," said Brown, one of a handful of whites to head an NAACP branch. "But I felt that it would be irresponsible of me not to fulfill that duty."

Brown's decision to serve raised eyebrows in Miami-Dade and across the country, however, as many wondered why Miami could not find a black leader to head the local chapter of the nation's oldest civil rights group.

That changed after Curry, a strong supporter of Brown, urged the audience of South Florida's leading black radio station, "99 Jamz" (WEDR, FM 99.1), to tell listeners that Brown was no "Johnny-come-lately" to the civil rights movement and deserved respect.

A civil rights leader for 40 years, Brown, 63, wagered that the community would judge him on the basis of his record, and it has.

Brown was so successful in completing the year and a half remaining of Curry's unexpired term that he was unopposed for the president's job, and on Monday walks unopposed into his own full two-year term. Supporters cite Brown's popularity and extensive experience for their confidence in his leadership.

"He has an understanding of where we need to go and how we need to get there," said Adora Obi Nweze, state president of the NAACP and former head of the Miami-Dade branch. "He knows what the leadership mantle is all about and what he needs to do to be successful."

Dorothy Johnson, current first vice president of the Miami-Dade branch, said Brown's four decades of dedication and service set him apart.

"He is a champion, a legacy in my opinion," Johnson said. "In civil rights he is not only known in South Florida but in many states for his efforts. He has been through the struggle."

Brown's involvement in the NAACP dates to 1962, when he returned to his native Massachusetts after earning a master's degree from Auburn University. He participated in the 1963 march on Washington, worked for the organization in Alabama and was active with NAACP chapters in Massachusetts and Oklahoma.

"I wasn't that different from a lot of people from the Northeast in that I was pulling for desegregation," Brown said of his initial involvement in civil rights. "The difference is I have stayed in as a lifelong commitment."

The 94th annual convention, scheduled for July in Miami Beach, will take place as planned, Brown said, and will attract thousands of participants.

Aside from planning for the national meeting, the 3,000-member branch is handling a full civil rights agenda, including voter registration and education and the Haitian refugee crisis.

Copyright Ā 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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