UL President James Buford to Retire

Nnpa | 5/22/2012, 10:55 a.m.

James H. Buford, who has been President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis for 27 years, will retire in mid-2013, he announced today at a meeting of the League's Board of Directors. A search committee will soon be appointed by Board Chair Debra Denham to seek both local and national candidates.

Under Mr. Buford's leadership, the St. Louis affiliate of the National Urban League has dramatically grown in scope, services and community influence. He is widely recognized, in St. Louis and nationally, as a forceful and highly effective advocate for social and economic equality.

He has been at the forefront of countless efforts in the St. Louis community to promote inclusion and fairness for all minorities and disenfranchised citizens, especially African-Americans.

"Jim has been and continues to be an extraordinary leader, not just of the Urban League, but on a wide range of issues in the St. Louis region," said Ms. Denham. "Under his leadership, the Urban League has grown to be a crucial part of the St. Louis region's social safety net - providing services that range from job training to home weatherization, early childhood education to emergency food, violence prevention programs to housing counseling. And the broader community has greatly benefited from his wisdom as an eloquent voice for understanding among all racial and ethnic groups and from his leadership on a wide array of issues."

For more than decade, the St. Louis Urban League has been recognized as a premier organization within the National Urban League movement. In 2004, it was the first local affiliate to be designated a Five-Star Affiliate, a ranking it has maintained ever since through several affiliate reviews by the national organization.

"Thanks to Jim's leadership, the St. Louis affiliate is seen as the model for others to follow," said Stephen C. Jones, immediate past Chair of the Urban League Board of Directors. "Attracting the highly successful 2007 National Urban League Conference to St. Louis reinforced the standing that Jim and this affiliate have earned throughout the Urban League movement. The strong partnerships that Jim has built with the St. Louis corporate and philanthropic community were big assets in winning this convention of more than 10,000 attendees."

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis' budget has seen a tenfold increase since Mr. Buford became head of the St. Louis affiliate, as the number and scope of its programs have grown. From an annual budget of about $2.5 million when he arrived, the League now provides more than $20 million in programs to underserved populations of St. Louis City and County and St. Clair County. For more than a decade, the League has partnered with the YWCA to operate several Head Start centers in the City of St. Louis. It also has joined with St. Louis County Government and the Missouri Career Center to provide Workforce Investment Act youth services to at-risk high school students. This spring, the League weatherized more than 3,000 homes under a three-year, $19.4 million federal contract. And through a new partnership with Fannie Mae, the affiliate now provides housing counseling and foreclosure prevention in St. Louis City and County.