NAACP Chairman Margaret Bush Wilson, facing a potentially overwhelming vote of no confidence by angry board members, yesterday reinstated executive director Benjamin L. Hooks, whom she had suspended independently eight days earlier.
Announcement of the reinstatement did not nullify plans for a special board meeting in Brooklyn Saturday, however.
It was called this week by 45 of the board's 64 members in defiance of Wilson to discuss the suspension and possible curbs on Wilson's powers as chairman.
"This special meeting we called will be held. We have many things to talk about," said Kelly M. Alexander Sr. of Charlotte, vice chairman of the board and president of the North Carolina NAACP.
"Among other things, we have the problem of considering and acting upon limitations of the chairman's power so we won't run into this thing again," he said.
Another who called for the meeting is the Rev. Edward A. Hailes, chairman of the District of Columbia NAACP and a national vice president.
"She put the man back to keep us from addressing the issues," he said. "She wants to come out smelling like a rose.
"She has created havoc across the nation," Hailes continued. "People want the board of directors to take action . . . . You can't just hit a guy in the head and say, 'I'm sorry, I'm not going to do it anymore.'"
In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Wilson said that the May 18 suspension was "for reasons which relate to internal management and NAACP policy. Essentially, the purposes for which the action was taken have been served, and no useful purpose will be gained by its continuance."
Hooks is to resume his duties today.
"As I have stated on other occasions," Wilson said, "it is not appropriate for me to disclose matters which more properly relate to internal affairs to be addressed and considered by the NAACP board of directors. That is my position now."
Wilson, a St. Louis lawyer who has been board chairman since 1975, never disclosed the reason for the suspension, which followed a sometimes stormy meeting of the organization's executive board in Chicago the weekend of May 14.
Sources familiar with the meeting said that the arguments were the culmination of longstanding differences over management and direction between Wilson and Hooks, who has been executive director since 1977.
Wilson has contended that Hooks is a poor administrator and the 400,000 members of the organization are not being well served.
Hooks' supporters have countered that Wilson is merely trying to run the organization from her post as board chairman and is undermining Hooks' efforts.
Earlier this week, Wilson tried to head off Saturday's scheduled meeting by declaring it illegal. She urged board members not to attend and instead scheduled a meeting June 11.
But as the weekend approached, several board members said yesterday, it became clear that the meeting Saturday would be heavily attended and the suspension probably would be repudiated.
"Just as a factual matter, and I base this on talking to 45 or 50 board members, the sentiment of the board was to reinstate Ben Saturday," board member Nathaniel S. Colley of Sacramento said. "There would have been an overwhelming majority for reinstatment."
Wilson said in her statement that the meeting June 11 still will take place and "between now and then I expect to have discussions with Dr. Hooks toward the end that the best interests of the organization we both serve will be advanced."
Several board members said such meetings could be crucial to her own interests as well.
On July 11, the organization begins its 74th annual convention in New Orleans, at which the chairman is to give the keynote address. In December, she stands for reelection as an at-large member of the board, and one month later is the annual election for board chairman