Knox NAACP Elects New Leaders

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Thursday night, with guidance from national, and state leaders, Knoxville's Chapter of a major civil rights watchdog group will rebuild with new leadership.

After 16 years, the NAACP has ousted Dewey Roberts as local president, and called new elections.

Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd's been looking at what prompted the move.

Membership, or lack of it.

Mister Roberts has declined, politely, to talk about his ouster.

But senior members says the issues here, mirror those of the NAACP chapters across the country.

Recruiting the committed, to continue the fight.

"The other one on the end there, it's about ten years behind them," Henry Anderson's living room walls are testament to his own community service.

And to his family's close ties, through four generations.

They are active in certain organizations, but I can't think of but one who is active in the NAACP," Anderson says.

"A city the size of Knoxville ought to have at least 1000 members," says the Reverend Harold Middlebrook.

Knoxville's NAACP has remained front and center in struggles over race relations in schools.

And in bringing candidates to neighborhood forums but some wonder whether the chapters face may have been too much Dewey Roberts.

"We feel like it is very important that we establish dialogue," says Roberts.

"I just think he should have delegated some of the responsibility," Anderson says.

"You got the schools desegregated, you got lunch counters desegregated, a lot of people just got into a lax period where they thought the battle was over," Rev. Middlebrook says.

The Reverend Harold Middlebrook's Canaan Baptist Church of God will host Thursday's elections.

He says Knoxville's NAACP must remind younger generations who started fighting the battles still not won.

"They have to see us actually out there continuing the struggle, fighting for economic justice, fighting for our communities," says Rev. Middlebrook. "Let them know you're interested in them and that you care about their well-being."

Beyond that, Henry Anderson says working age and younger generations need to know their involvement matters. "You don't have to say I love you, but saying I love you would go a long way,"

The Reverend Middlebrook says as many as 300, or as few as 100 members could turn out for tonight's chapter vote.

Dewey Roberts, and other ousted officers and board members, can't be re-nominated or elected
Thursday night.