Former House Clerk Chosen to Run NAACP

Posted October 22, 2013 at 11:55am

The next leader of the NAACP will be Lorraine C. Miller, a top Democratic leadership aide for more than a decade who spent four years as the first African-American clerk of the House the last time her party was in the majority.

The nation’s largest and oldest civil rights group announced Monday that Miller will become the interim president and CEO on Nov. 1 and will be in charge while the Baltimore-based organization seeks a permanent  leader. She will be the first woman to hold the top job, succeeding Benjamin Jealous, who announced last month that he would step down at the end of the year, after five years at the helm.

“These are important times, and the important work of the NAACP will go on,” said Miller, who has been a commercial real estate broker since the GOP took control of the House in 2011.

As clerk, she managed most of the daily bureaucratic operations of the House, overseeing nine different offices and about 250 other staffers. (The clerk also presides on the opening day of each Congress until the speaker is elected.)

Miller has been president of the NAACP’s branch in Washington, D.C., and has been on the national board of directors since 2008.

A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Miller was an unsuccessful applicant for several jobs with her hometown congressman, Jim Wright, before getting hired in 1978. She stayed with him through his speakership and was also a senior aide to Speaker Thomas S. Foley and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., before becoming President Bill Clinton’s first legislative lobbyist in the House. After political jobs at the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, she returned to the Hill to become a senior aide in the House minority leader’s office after Nancy Pelosi won that post.

The California Democrat nominated Miller as clerk when she became speaker in early 2007. One of her main priorities during her tenure was overhauling the House page program, which had been plagued by lax oversight and rocked by a sex scandal connected to Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. The program was ended in 2011, with House leaders of both parties concluding it had become an expensive relic of a technological era gone by.

“In appointing Lorraine Miller as its interim president, the NAACP has chosen a fearless leader who will pick up that mantle of progress and help pave the way toward a more fair and just America,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“Lorraine’s experience serving as a congressional aide — including to Civil Rights hero John Lewis — as an officer of the House, and as a respected community leader will enhance the office of the NAACP president and CEO during her tenure,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement.

The appointment is the second time the NAACP has turned to a Capitol Hill veteran for new leadership. Kweisi Mfume, a House Democrat from Baltimore, resigned in the middle of his fifth term to become president and CEO in 1996, and remained at the helm for nine years.