Lee Alcorn: Is he in, or is he out? Only the NAACP national office knows for sure.
Lee Alcorn: Is he in, or is he out? Only the NAACP national office knows for sure.
Martin Menocal

Chess game

Is he in, out, suspended, reinstated, praised, excoriated? Not even sometime-Dallas NAACP chief Lee Alcorn, the subject of those questions, knows the answer.

But things are happening in the local branch. That's about the only statement anyone can make with certitude concerning the latest political machinations of the Dallas NAACP.

Last week, the national NAACP dispatched an officer to Dallas, reportedly to help train members of the local branch's executive committee. Rupert Richardson, the national board member who visited and departed last week, did not return several calls requesting comment.

John White, a spokesman at the national headquarters of the organization in Baltimore, Maryland, says the board had sent her to help because the board thought the Dallas branch was "having difficulties." She will remain in the supervisory role "until the board decides otherwise," White says.

If that's true, Richardson's plans would conflict with those of the two local people who say they're entitled to a piece of the Dallas branch's leadership.

Depending on whom one asks, the controversial Alcorn either quit or was suspended as Dallas NAACP president last July. In the aftermath, longtime local NAACP officer Brenda Fields was appointed president -- permanently, she says.

Alcorn disagrees, saying Fields is temporary, but concedes he's unsure of his own status. "I don't know where it stands myself," he says.

These days, Alcorn, who more than once has met the national officers in vicious battles fought out in state courts, sounds positively conciliatory about the folks at headquarters in Baltimore. "I'm waiting for them," he says.

Alcorn has not, however, shown any interest in backing down on racial issues. For the past five months, without his official post, Alcorn has managed to inject himself into race-related controversies across the state.

"I'm still in the civil rights business," he says.

In early July, the national NAACP board suspended Alcorn, who had only months earlier prevailed in a bitter election against his well-financed opponent Dwaine Caraway. A few days after his suspension, Alcorn told reporters he planned to announce that he was quitting the organization because he had grown frustrated with the frequent bickering with the national office. He later changed his mind.

The outspoken Alcorn has never enjoyed a smooth relationship with the national office. He has been suspended three times during his five years as president of the Dallas branch.

This summer, the national board said it would strip Alcorn of his title again, along with those of his ally Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and his lawyer Ron Davis, because the trio had created a non-profit corporation named the Dallas NAACP & Co. The national officials said the organization infringed upon the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's name.

Alcorn, who hopes to be reinstated in January as branch president, now says he is ready to dissolve the unsanctioned non-profit corporation. His intention was to create a company that could receive a building as a donation. In turn, that building could house the Dallas branch of the NAACP rent free. "We could escape $1,400 a month," Alcorn says.

In the end, no property was donated to the corporation. "That non-profit has never been functioning," he says.

Although Alcorn intends to return as branch president, NAACP headquarters spokesman White says all he knows is that Alcorn is currently suspended.

About the national's move, Alcorn sounds more acquiescent than his usual self. "I don't know why they need an administrator," he says. "We will just have to go along with the national organization."

Although Alcorn wants to strike a conciliatory note with the national office, he still can't help passing judgment on what the local branch has done during his absence as president -- basically nothing, he claims.

"I don't know of any activities," he says.

Fields counters that the branch has not been dormant under her leadership.

"If the question is have we boycotted or picketed, then the answer is no," Fields says.

The organization has held regular meetings and has invited a variety of speakers from all parts of the city. Specifically, the Dallas branch heard from new Police Chief Terrell Bolton in September, and Martin Burrell, who was recently appointed to Ross Perot Jr.'s arena development company to oversee minority affairs. Alcorn could also participate in the branch's affairs, Field contends, just not as president. "He was suspended as president but not as a member," she says.

Alcorn has kept himself busy during his hiatus. Last month, he joined Price and others who publicly lent their support to Bolton, who was criticized for moving a group of Dallas police officers from their quarters in an FBI facility. "We wanted people to know there were those of us out there who would stand up for Bolton," Alcorn says.

He has met with the new DISD Superintendent Waldemar "Bill" Rojas on several occasions. Initially, Alcorn says he was pleased with the direction Rojas appeared to be taking. More recently, as the superintendent has pressed the school district into contracting with The Edison Project, a private school management company, he has become concerned. "Rojas is being paid a substantial salary," Alcorn says. "We have to see what he can do before he starts contracting out the worst-performing schools in the district."

In August, Alcorn headed down to Emory in Rains County, where a 16-year-old boy was sentenced for burning a 53-year-old black man to death. The boy, who is white, pleaded guilty on August 16 to a juvenile charge of murder as part of an agreement with prosecutors that kept him from being prosecuted as an adult. He was sentenced to up to 40 years in prison. Alcorn sat in the courtroom to protest the plea agreement, saying the murder was a hate crime. "This has nothing to do with justice," Alcorn told a reporter from a Houston newspaper.

Alcorn believes he will hear from the national office about his reinstatement in the next two weeks. He doesn't want to say anymore -- lest he add more fuel to the fire burning between himself and the national office.


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