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The local branch now has about 1,100 members.

"We want to double the number," Scott said.

Given his life's story, that is not a reach.

Savannah has been home since age 4 and Scott readily admits he grew up in Savannah's "lanes and slums."

His parents divorced and he was reared in a single-mother household.


'Poverty forced on us'

"You knew we were among the have-nots, but you weren't depressed," Scott said.

"I had no intention of staying in the lane the rest of my life. ... My biggest accomplishment is having escaped poverty."

In fact by the time he retired from Union Camp's executive corps, Scott had been a six-year veteran of Georgia's House, spent eight years in the state Senate and was Georgia's first black constitutional officer outside of the judiciary when Gov. Zell Miller appointed him labor commissioner in 1990.


Shinhoster reaches out

Scott has been an NAACP member since 1972; a life member since 1974.

Under Law, Scott served on the branch's labor and industry committee and on the executive committee.

After Jackson's death, First Vice President Richard Shinhoster met with Scott over lunch to discuss Jackson's successor.

Or, as Scott recalls it, working with Shinhoster to identify potential presidential candidates acceptable locally - namely him.

"He and I spent some time having lunch," Scott said.

His name went through the nominating committee and he was elected by the membership in November.

Shinhoster, a local businessman and leader in the local branch, said Scott's name was mentioned by several people during his search for a new president.

He called Scott's selection "significant" for the group as it moves forward.

"We wanted someone who could look back at the history of the NAACP, but also look forward to where it needs to go," Shinhoster said.

Scott, he said, can bring that leadership.

"This was an opportunity for us to really look seriously to remain a force within this community," he said.


Longtime battles


Scott recalled that the NAACP's history revolved around "battle after battle" spanning decades.

He said the NAACP was conceived in 1908 in the aftermath of lynchings in the South and the 1908 race riots in Springfield, Ill.

It was formed the following year.

Later it would deal with issues from the Great Depression, then integration of the armed forces, education, access to public facilities to such issues as affordable health care.

As early as 1938, people were questioning its relevance, he said.

Like most of the longtime NAACP veterans, Scott sees the need for more involvement by younger people and for the continued effort to deal with such problems as unemployment and poverty.

The group must address the economic plight of those seeking to enter the middle class, affordable housing and wellness issues.

"We've got a lot of things to look at and address," Scott said of the future. "We will always be relevant ... We are the sentinel of the Pledge of Allegiance. We just to continue to make progress toward it."

If you go
Al Scott will be installed as president of the Savannah Branch NAACP at 5 p.m. today at St. Matthews Episcopal Church, 1401 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Other new officers being installed include:
-- Richard Shinhoster, first vice president
-- Willie Macon, second vice president
-- Sandra Best, third vice president
-- Lynette Hines, secretary
-- Joe Lang, treasurer
The Al Scott file
Name: Al Scott
Position: President, Savannah Branch National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Hometown: Savannah
Age: 63
Education: Beach High School, 1966; Armstrong State University (now Armstrong Atlantic State University)
Professional: Union Camp Corp., 1968-1990; 1993-2006
Political: Georgia House of Representatives District 123, 1976-1982; Georgia Senate 2nd District, 1982-1990; Georgia Labor Commissioner, 1990-1992;
Civic: Member BB&T Bank community board; Georgia Board of Education, 2001; Georgia Ports Authority, 2002-2007, including chair and vice chair; NAACP life member; founding board member King-Tisdell Museum; Boy Scouts of America; Goodwill Industries; Hodge Memorial Day Care

By Jan Skutch

Don't try telling Al Scott the NAACP is no longer relevant.

He knows better.

"I think the NAACP will forever be relevant, but from time to time that question's being asked," said the new president of the Savannah Branch National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Scott, 63, will be installed Sunday night to succeed the late Prince Jackson Jr., who died in September after 10 years as branch president.

Heavy agenda

Scott brings with him big plans.

He wants to make sure the organization's committees are operating and the group establishes a Web presence.

"I want to make sure we have very active committee chairs," Scott said. "I want to make it very easy to get involved and for a member to become active."

Sen. Al Scott, incoming president of the Savannah Branch NAACP (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News)

Savannah, Speak Your Mind!

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