NAACP Mourns Passing of Margaret Bush Wilson

8/19/2009, 1:21 p.m.

The NAACP family is saddened by the passing of Margaret Bush Wilson, an activist and lawyer who was the first African American woman to chair the NAACP Board of Directors. Wilson died on Tue., Aug. 11 at the age of 90.

€Margaret Bush Wilson's passion for legal equity and social justice provide the framework for which many of our civil rights victories have been fought and won,€ said NAACP chair of the Board of Directors Julian Bond.

€The NAACP has lost a champion and the world has lost a pioneer. Margaret Bush
Wilson served as an NAACP Board member and Board Chair and a path breaking Missouri lawyer.€

The importance of the NAACP and its mission were instilled in Wilson early in life, as both of her parents were active in the St. Louis, Mo. Branch of the NAACP, of which she became a member as a youth. Following her graduation from Talladega College, in 1940, she entered Lincoln University School of Law in Missouri, set up one year earlier after the Supreme Court ruled that Black students must be admitted to the University of Missouri Law School or provide equal educational opportunities elsewhere.

In 1953, following her graduation, she incorporated Black brokers, organized by her father, who brought the successful Shelley vs. Kramer case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1956, she began work as volunteer for the St. Louis Branch NAACP when they formed a Job Opportunity Council to get local White businessmen to hire Black citizens. In 1958, she became president of the St. Louis Branch.

The pioneering civil rights lawyer was the second black woman to pass the Missouri Bar. She was part of the legal team on a U.S. Supreme Court case that challenged housing covenants that excluded blacks and Jews from neighborhoods in St. Louis and other cities.

In early 1960, she organized the first statewide NAACP Conference in Missouri which became the Missouri State Conference of NAACP Branches of which she also served as President. She was later elected to the NAACP Board of Directors in 1963 and was a member for the next 12 years, until her election as Chair in 1975 and served in this position for nine years through 1983.

After her election as Chair, when male board members inquired €What shall we call you? Chairperson? Chairlady?,€ she responded €As long as you recognize that I'm Chairman of the Board, I don't care what you call me.€

€Margaret Bush Wilson was the consummate NAACP leader, and her steadfast commitment to the Association was unparalleled,€ said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.

€Her invaluable contributions will be sorely missed, and her legacy and passion for social justice will live on through the NAACP's efforts.€

Roslyn M. Brock, NAACP Vice Chair, said upon hearing of Wilson's passing that €she was a pioneer in Missouri who effectively sought to bring change, the first Black woman to run for Congress in 1948, the second to practice law in the state, and the first woman of color to become Chair of the NAACP National Board. She set precedents and demonstrated that with qualifications determination and perseverance, goals can be reached. Her achievements have certainly inspired me to move forward.€