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Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

NAACP Elects James Hall President

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The contentious campaign to elect new leadership of the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP ended on Saturday with a calm, orderly election at the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church on the city’s North Side.

More than 300 members voted, a historic high, with the majority voting for James Hall Jr., a greatly respected Milwaukee attorney, as president.

Hall and his supporters have vowed to reform the local NAACP and refocus its efforts on community outreach and activism.

Hall defeated NAACP First Vice President Wendell Harris, the chosen successor of outgoing president Jerry Ann Hamilton, whose tenure has been the target of heavy criticism.

That criticism included anonymous e-mails sent throughout the community questioning Hamilton’s leadership and potential conflicts of interest. Hamilton’s son Henry challenged those e-mails in court, but his case was dismissed. Complaints had also been sent to the national NAACP about Hamilton’s activities, but those complaints are still unresolved.

The conflicts grew to a boiling point in September, when a meeting to nominate candidates for the November election was shut down. Members then met in a parking lot and finished the meeting. Police were called.

Eight members were suspended by the national NAACP for speaking out about their concerns and moving forward with the local nominations. A few of them were present on the outskirts of the church on Saturday, handing out names of reform-minded candidates and protesting the treatment of the “Milwaukee 8,” the suspended members.

As a result of the internal conflict, the national NAACP decided to oversee Saturday’s elections. The officials imposed tight regulations on the meeting. Only NAACP members were allowed inside of the church and any member that spoke to the media would be immediately suspended, attendees were warned.

Hall referred to the controversy in a statement after being elected president and promised to put the conflict to rest.

“While the campaign was in many ways like any other heavily contested election, the election day itself featured a positive and unifying atmosphere, proving my belief that all NAACP members are passionate about working together to bring greater prosperity to our community,” Hall wrote. “Going forward, as we stated throughout the election, we will be One NAACP.”