Theodore R. Hagans Jr., developer of the Fort Lincoln new town in Washington, D.C., has been elected president of the National Business League, the nation's largest and oldest black business organization.
Hagans will serve the remaining two years of the term of the late Berkeley G. Burrell, the league's president for 17 years who died last month. Hagan's election Tuesday night followed several days of intense politicking between the forces of Hagans and James Denson, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.
Denson, who unsuccessfully challenged Burrell last year for the presidency, ran on a platform this year of bucking the conservative stance of the league under its former chief. The outcome was seen as crucial to the direction of the NLB, viewed by many government agencies as the megaphone of minority business.
"The National Business League is still the '60s and has not moved into the '70s, let alone be prepared to move into the decade of the '80s" Denson said following his defeat. "I've always said I admired Dr. Burrell, but it is time to move into another dimension."
The league, which in its 79-year existence has fought for the small black businessperson, has been criticized for not taking a larger role in the development of bigger, more profitable and job-producing firms. Denson has said that the league's board should consist of more big business people. He also favors a Commerce Department reorganization that seeks the creation of larger blacks firms.
Burrell had opposed the reorganization of Commerce's minority business agency, saying that it would ignore most black businesses because they are small.
Hagans would not respond to Denson's charges in an interview today, except to say that Denson had the right to say whatever he wanted. Divisions over the league's direction, which surfaced during the campaign, will disappear and the group will pull together, Hagans forecast.
The D.C. developer headed the National Business League's slate for its board of directors and presidency. He has headed Fort Lincoln, a 12-year, $800 million project, and also owns the parking lot at Dulles International Airport.
Hagans, 53, a Howard University electrical engineering graduate, also manages a number of apartment buildings he owns and is working with developer Oliver T. Carr in the proposed development of land near Metro Center in downtown Washington. Hagans is also on the board of Potomac Electric Power Co., McLachlen National Bank, the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade and eight other associations.
"I felt that I could help in the new direction of the 1980s," Hagans said of his decision to run for president. Hagans said he and league officers and board members still are assessing what the league needs to do and where it should head.
He said also that he will seek financial independence for the mostly government-funded organization. Of $505,000 in revenues to the league last year, $382,000 came in grants from the Commerce and Transportation department. Members contributed $29,000, according to the group's annual report.
Nominees on the league's proposed slate of directors, including Burrell's widow, A. Pat Robinson Burrell, defeated other candidates by more than a 3-to-1 margin. Denson, who was nominated from the floor to the board, said he then suggested that Hagans be elected president by acclamation because a person must be a board member to be president and Denson had no chance for the top spot.