Chairman’s Award: William Lucy


LOS ANGELES, CA (December 7, 2017) – The NAACP announced today that prominent labor union organizer and leader William Lucy will be honored with the prestigious NAACP Chairman’s Award which is bestowed in recognition of individuals who demonstrate exemplary public service and use their distinct platforms to create agents of change. Leon W. Russell, Chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, will present Lucy with the award at the 49th NAACP Image Awards on Monday, January 15, 2018 live at 9pm/8c on TV One.

Mr. Lucy will receive this honor in recognition of his role in the labor movement and his accomplishments as a labor organizer and justice advocate. His work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike and the instrumental role he played in the anti-apartheid movement — which helped free Nelson Mandela and led to the first democratic elections in South Africa – exemplify Mr. Lucy’s impact on the civil and human rights movement in the U.S. and around the world.

“I am personally inspired by William Lucy’s activism on a number of civil and human rights issues, and particularly, that he has not forgotten what it is like to be a person of color in America,” stated Leon W. Russell, Chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors. “In honoring him, we will remind the American public not only of his role in the labor movement and his endeavors on economic issues, but also of his distinguished community service and charitable efforts.”

Past honorees of the Chairman’s Award include Tyler Perry, Ruby Dee, The Neville Brothers, Bono, Danny Glover, Former Vice President Al Gore and Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai, then-Senator Barak Obama, Former Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, TV One Founder and Chairman Cathy Hughes, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Michele Howard, Brittany “Bree” Newsome, Justice League NYC, University of Missouri Concerned Student 1950 Collective, University of Mississippi NAACP College Chapter, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, Rev. Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant, Jussie Smollett, and Dr. Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.

For over four decades, William Lucy has been at the forefront of the labor movement in America and around the world. As International Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) for nearly 40 years, Lucy helped the union grow from 200,000 to over 1.4 million members in 3,500 local unions nationwide. He also helped define the role of African Americans in the labor unions when he co-founded the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) in 1972. Along the way, he stood alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through civil rights struggles and Nelson Mandela in opposition to apartheid. Mr. Lucy co-founded the Free South Africa Movement, a grassroots campaign that sparked widespread opposition to apartheid across the United States.

After the release of Nelson Mandela – the South African leader who had been imprisoned by the apartheid government for 27 years – Mr. Lucy led a fundraising effort to bring Mr. Mandela on a United States tour. Four years later, when South Africa held its first post-apartheid elections, Mr. Lucy traveled there as part of an AFL-CIO monitoring delegation. After twenty years of fighting apartheid, Mr. Lucy was present when Nelson Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa.

Throughout the 1990s, Mr. Lucy continued to move through the upper ranks of international labor. In November of 1994, he was elected president of Public Services International (PSI), the world’s largest union federation. The first African American to hold this position, he oversaw 10 million members from over 100 nations. In 1995, the AFL-CIO appointed Mr. Lucy to its executive council, the federation’s highest decision-making body. Mr. Lucy also served as vice president for several of the AFL-CIO’s departments including the Industrial Union, Maritime Trades, and Professional Employees. In addition, he served on the board of directors of civic groups such as the African America Institute, Americans for Democratic Action, and the Center for Policy Alternatives.

Mr. Lucy has carved out a legacy based on living wages, health care benefits, and job safety. And like Dr. King and Mr. Mandela, Mr. Lucy’s legacy lives on through the lives of hundreds of thousands of working families around the world every day. Ebony Magazine frequently cites him as one of “The 100 most Influential Black Americans.”

The two-hour live television special will be the culmination of a day of volunteer service, citizen action, and celebration on the national holiday honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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About NAACP:

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. Read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas at

About TV One:

Launched in January 2004, TV One serves 59 million households, offering a broad range of real-life and entertainment- focused original programming, classic series, movies and music designed to entertain and inform a diverse audience of adult black viewers.

The network represents the best in black culture and entertainment with fan favorite shows Unsung, Rickey Smiley For Real, Fatal Attraction, The Manns and The NAACP Image Awards. In addition, TV One is the cable home of blockbuster drama Empire, and NewsOne Now, the only live daily news program dedicated to black viewers.

In December 2008, the company launched TV One High Def, which now serves 14 million households. TV One is solely owned by Urban One, Inc., formerly known as Radio One, Inc. [NASDAQ: UONE and UONEK,], the largest African-American owned multi-media company primarily targeting Black and urban audiences.

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NAACP Image Awards Media Contacts:

The Lippin Group
Jennifer Price-Keith |
Elina Adut |
Freddy Morales |
(323) 965-1990

For TV ONE (telecast info only):

Tosha Whitten-Griggs |

(301) 755-0020


Leon W. Russell was elected chairman of the NAACP at its annual Board of Directors meeting in New York on February 18, 2017. Russell has served as a member of the NAACP Board of Directors for 27 years. Mr. Russell retired in January 2012, after serving as the Director of the Office of Human Rights for Pinellas County Government, Clearwater, Florida since January 1977.