Va. NAACP to be run by Tenn. official

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 4/5/2019, 6 a.m.
The longtime president of the Tennessee NAACP has been handed control of the Virginia State Conference NAACP. Gloria Jean Sweet-Love, ...

Gloria Jean Sweet-Love

Gloria Jean Sweet-Love

The longtime president of the Tennessee NAACP has been handed control of the Virginia State Conference NAACP.

Gloria Jean Sweet-Love, who has earned credit for turning around NAACP operations in her state during her 24-year tenure at the helm, was named administrator for the Virginia operations and given sweeping powers over state NAACP policies, programs and expenditures.

Ending weeks of silence, national NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson notified the current Virginia NAACP president, the Rev. Kevin Chandler of South Boston, of Ms. Sweet-Love’s appointment in a certified letter dated March 15.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Free Press, confirms a report the newspaper published in the Feb. 21-23 edition that the national office of the civil rights organization was poised to take over state operations in the wake of complaints from board members of NAACP policy violations.

Rev. Chandler did not respond to a request for comment. Other officers were not immediately available for comment on the takeover.

“This is the result of issues that have been building up for years,” said one NAACP official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Ms. Sweet-Love, a resident of rural Brownsville, Tenn., has earned a reputation as a high-energy leader. Along with her leadership of the Tennessee NAACP since 1995, she also served on the Haywood County School Board for 18 years and was the first African-American woman to serve as president of the Tennessee School Boards Association in 2005.

Mr. Johnson did not indicate when Ms. Sweet-Love, who will continue as Tennessee state president and also as chair of the national NAACP board’s Committee on Membership and Units, would arrive to assume her duties. She is expected to work out of the state NAACP office that rents space in the Baptist General Convention of Virginia building on the campus of Virginia Union University.

However, when Ms. Sweet-Love does arrive, the letter states that she would have “overall responsibility for the operation of the (Virginia) State Conference, its committees and staff, if any.”

She also will have veto power over any policy actions of the state executive committee that includes the president, other officers and board members and will control the release of any information to the media and the public about the state’s activities and programs.

Mr. Johnson also informed Rev. Chandler that Ms. Sweet-Love must approve all expenditures. He added that any checks for payment issued by the state NAACP must bear Ms. Sweet-Love’s signature, as well as those of the president and state treasurer.

Among other duties, Ms. Sweet-Love will have authority to ensure that “the state conference has a plan for the purpose of paying off debts to the national office.”

The takeover is a huge embarrassment for the state NAACP, which has stepped up its lobbying of state legislators during Rev. Chandler’s tenure and sought to raise its profile on major issues, ranging from Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s use of blackface in 1984 to a state decision to allow a natural gas compressor station to be located in the historic African-American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County.

The state NAACP has been a vocal leader in calling on Gov. Northam to resign, challenging the environmental threat to Union Hill, seeking to create more equitable political districts, pushing for voting rights for felons and trying to end barriers to voting.

“Hopefully, Ms. Sweet-Love can help us overcome our challenges,” one source said, “so we can get back to dealing with the issues that affect our members and the people who look to us to lead the civil rights agenda in this state.”