The NAACP is expected to narrow the list of four executive director finalists, including civil rights leader Jesse L. Jackson, to a single candidate this weekend.
Sources close to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's search say the candidates still under consideration, in addition to Mr. Jackson, 51, are:
* The Rev. Benjamin L. Chavis Jr., 45, executive director of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, based in Cleveland.
* Jewell Jackson McCabe, 47, a New York management consultant who is founder of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
* Earl R. Shinhoster, 42, director of the NAACP's regional office in Atlanta.
The NAACP board's search committee is scheduled to interview the finalists this weekend in Indianapolis, the sources say.
The panel is expected to submit its recommendation to the full 64-member NAACP board early next week. The board isn't bound to hire the recommended candidate.
The outgoing executive director, the Rev. Benjamin L. Hooks, is set to leave the post March 31 to preach, write and become a professor at Fisk University in Nashville. The NAACP has had national headquarters in Baltimore since 1986.
Those with the greatest influence on the selection, including board Chairman Dr. William F. Gibson, a Greenville, S.C., dentist, and search committee Chairman Ernest G. Green, a New York investment banker, will not comment on the search.
The selection is viewed as a key to the future of the nation's most venerable civil rights group, which critics have charged is increasingly ineffective in dealing with African-Americans' social and economic problems. The NAACP has about 500,000 members in 2,200 branches across the nation.
"Most people I talk to consider this to be a watershed for the organization," says Ronald Walters, chairman of Howard University's political science department.
Mr. Walters, who supports Mr. Jackson's candidacy, said the NAACP needs "younger, more vigorous leadership" to increase its membership and expand its agenda.
He said the former Democratic presidential candidate could "use his considerable skills to do what he does best -- raise money, build membership, lead the NAACP in the direction he wants to go and give it presence."
Mr. Walters said it would take a person of Mr. Jackson's "overpowering image" to deal with the NAACP's strong-minded board.
But Mr. Jackson's strong personality could work against him.
"In a phrase, he could be a square peg in a round hole," said Joseph E. Madison, a board member and candidate for executive director who did not make the final list. "There is concern whether he could work with the board."
Mr. Shinhoster is the consummate NAACP insider. He has risen through the group's ranks since joining a youth council at the age of 13. He has headed the Atlanta regional office since 1978, but his reputation outside the NAACP is limited.
Dr. Chavis stands to the left of the civil rights mainstream. He spent four years in prison in the 1970s on a Wilmington, N.C., arson conviction that was later thrown out by a federal appeals court.
Ms. McCabe runs her own consulting firm and chairs New York state's Jobs Training Partnership Council. The National Coalition of 100 Black Women, which she founded in 1981, now has 7,000 members in 22 states.
Anne O. Emery, president of the coalition's Baltimore chapter, called Ms. McCabe an "exciting young woman" who would bring the perspectives of both women and lay persons to the director's job.