'Tireless' advocate to retire after 20 years as leader of civil rights movement

Wade Henderson, longtime president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights will step down at the end of 2016. 

Kevin Wolf/AP/File
Wade Henderson, of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, speaks at a commemoration of the 47th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous 'I Have a Dream' speech, Aug. 28, 2010. Mr. Henderson, who will have been the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference for 20 years next year, says he will leave his post on December 31, 2016. There will be a nationwide search for Henderson’s replacement.

Wade Henderson, longtime head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, announced today that he will step down at the end of 2016, leaving behind a 20-year legacy.

After two decades of serving as president and chief executive officer, Mr. Henderson says “it’s time to make way for new leaders.”

"What is really driving this effort is my desire to make sure that the institution that I helped build will have the leadership that is suited for the challenges it faces not just today but into the future," Henderson said in an interview with The Associated Press. The organization will begin a nationwide search for Henderson's replacement. 

Originally founded by NAACP member Roy Wilkins, Arnold Aronson of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters over half a century ago, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is considered by many to be the “lobbying arm of the civil rights movement,” responsible for much of the behind-the-scenes work.

With a membership of over 200 national organizations, the coalition seeks to “promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States,” through targeted advocacy and outreach.

Under Henderson’s command, the coalition has nearly quadrupled its staff and established the first Muslim and Sikh civil rights groups.

Henderson also teaches Public Interest Law at the David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the District of Columbia and has published many articles on civil rights and public policy issues. In the past, Henderson served as Washington Bureau director of the NAACP, associate director of the Washington national office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and executive director of the Council on Legal Education Opportunity.

Henderson received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights in 2010, a prestigious recognition given to individuals who “advocate tirelessly for human rights.”

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