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Hooks plays down NAACP board's dissension amid search for his successor


WASHINGTON -- The Rev. Benjamin L. Hooks Jr. denied yesterday any suggestion that he was forced out as executive director of the NAACP, saying his decision to leave the organization had nothing to do with the departure of several prominent members from the group's board.

"They were not related, and it is incorrect to give that impression," he said at a news conference.

Dr. Hooks, 67, announced his intention to resign from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People last weekend, saying he wanted to lecture, write, spend more time with his family and perhaps resume practicing law.

"I'm healthy now. But I recognize that I'll be pushing up roses soon," Dr. Hooks said. "I'd like to smell a few of them before doing that."

He had made his announcement during an explosive meeting of the 64-member NAACP board. The meeting ended with several well-known people off the board and angry with William F. Gibson, the chairman, whom critics accused of maneuvering to extend his power.

Dr. Gibson, a Greenville, S.C., dentist and chairman of the NAACP since 1985, led a successful effort last year to repeal a board-imposed rule limiting officers to two three-year terms.

Julian Bond, a former Georgia state senator who had opposed the repeal, and another director lost re-election bids at the board meeting. Also, the board voted to remove Hazel N. Dukes as national president. When Ms. Dukes was ousted, New York businessman Percy E. Sutton, an effective NAACP fund-raiser, resigned to show solidarity with Ms. Dukes, who is also a New Yorker.

"The strange thing about the NAACP is that there has always been fights," Dr. Hooks said. "I don't think in the long run it

will destroy the effectiveness of the organization."

Mr. Bond, while still angry with Mr. Gibson for being "power hungry," agreed.

"It hurts, but this is far from fatal," said Mr. Bond, who is now a TV talk-show host and a teacher at American University here. "In some ways, it is the typical tension that you see in a lot of organizations between the chairman and the CEO."

Mr. Gibson, the board chairman, said he plans to appoint a search committee of "seven to nine" people to look for a replacement for Dr. Hooks, who succeeded Roy Wilkins as NAACP executive director in 1977.

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