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July 18th, 2012

NAACP mourns the loss of leader Willis Edwards

BALTIMORE, MD - The NAACP mourns the passing of civil rights icon and long-time NAACP leader Willis Edwards. He was 66 years old.

“Our dear friend and colleague Willis Edwards embodied the spirit of the NAACP,” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. “Willis attended his duties with great humility and greater passion. His accomplishments in the civil rights arena speak to a career that defies narrow definition. Willis promoted and protected the image of African Americans in the arts; he shaped and expanded the vision of the NAACP National Board of Directors; and he tore down barriers to honest conversation about HIV/AIDS in communities of color. He will be greatly missed.”

“Willis Edwards was a towering figure in the NAACP and his legacy will be remembered for generations to come,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “As a civil rights crusader, he continued in the tradition of those who came before him but also created new avenues to pursue justice in a changing world. His ingenuity made him a strong leader and a trusted advisor to so many freedom fighters across the country.”

In 1982, Edwards was elected President of the NAACP Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch. Edwards is credited with by many helping to build the coalition of producers and funders that led to the first NAACP Image Awards live on national television in 1986.

He also served on the National Board of the NAACP for 12 years. His roles included Vice Chair of the Image Awards, member of the NAACP Crisis Magazine Committee; member of the Executive Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee; member of the National Health Committee and chair of the sub-committee on HIV/AIDS. He recently joined the NAACP Board of Trustees.

“Willis understood more than most, the nexus among race, culture and the arts,” stated NAACP Board of Trustees Chairman Eugene Duffy. “He comprehended that how we are portrayed on the stage and screen, what is written by and about the people of the African Diaspora, defines not only how we see the world but how the world sees us. His legacy with the NAACP, particularly the Image Awards, will continue to serve as a source of inspiration for generations to come. The curtain has closed for Willis in this life but I certain he is center stage in heaven.”

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