willie_lawson___web.jpgPOMPANO BEACH – After more than 30 years of fighting for social justice, minority rights and educational equality, the North Broward branch of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization has been quietly absorbed into its Fort Lauderdale counterpart.

The North Broward NAACP has been merged with the Fort Lauderdale NAACP. The two branches now form one organization that is called the Fort Lauderdale/Broward Branch NAACP.

“The North Broward Branch was merged into the Fort Lauderdale Branch by the National Board of Directors during its July 2009 board meeting,” Marsha A. Ellison, president of the Fort Lauderdale/Broward Branch NAACP, said in an email to the South Florida Times.

Ellison, who was president of the organization’s former Fort Lauderdale branch, is also treasurer of the Florida statewide NAACP organization.

“There is now only one Branch chartered to serve Broward County (Fort Lauderdale/Broward Branch NAACP),’’ Ellison stated. “There have been no changes to office location or current administration.”

The national board members apparently did not, however, tell the North Broward branch president about the merger.

“I heard it through the grapevine,” said Willie L. Lawson III, the former North Broward branch NAACP president. “It’s true, but we intend to fight it because we were never notified or informed about it or given any reason.”

Lawson said he heard rumors in September 2009 about his branch being merged with Fort Lauderdale’s, and he later received verbal confirmation from officials at the national office in Baltimore after he made phone calls. He said he has yet to receive any explanation for the merger, and is fighting to have his branch re-established.

The organization that is largely responsible for ending segregation in the United States has struggled to remain relevant in an era that witnessed the election of the country’s first black president. Membership around the country has fallen in recent years.

In Broward, while the merger of the two branches has produced a new name, other issues such as the status of officers of the North Broward branch, meeting places, memberships, pending cases, and office locations have yet to be resolved.

“We have more active members than Fort Lauderdale, and they still have not told us why or how it happened,’’ Lawson said. “We’re still holding our meetings and helping people. There were no hearings. Nothing at all and that is not the process.”

Delores Madry Bullard, 58, was one of the founding members of the North Broward branch in 1980, and served as its president for several years. The branch was based in Pompano Beach, where Bullard still operates a beauty salon. Bullard was also Pompano Beach’s first black female police officer.

“I had no idea, but maybe it’s a good thing,” Bullard said of the merger. “Maybe more people can be helped, but we need to find out what has happened, and why no one knew about it.”

Officials at the national office have yet to respond to calls and emails seeking clarification on why and how the merger unfolded, and what the new structure of officers will be.

Leon W. Russell of Clearwater, who sits on the civil rights organization’s national board of directors, also confirmed that the North Broward branch is no more.

“There is no N. Broward Branch,” Russell said in an email to the South Florida Times. “It was merged with Ft. Lauderdale last fall.”


Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Willie L. Lawson III