Newly elected state NAACP state President Kenneth Hale, left, speaks to the crowd Saturday during the state convention in Beckley. At right is outgoing president James Tolbert.

Kenneth Hale of Charleston was selected as the new president of the West Virginia Chapter of the NAACP on Saturday at the organization’s 63rd annual convention, held this year in Beckley.

Hale has been active in the state organization for the last five years, serving most recently as the secretary for the West Virginia State Conference of Branches of the NAACP.

Hale is a major in the West Virginia Air National Guard, where he works as an equal opportunity officer, ensuring that military personnel receive fair and equitable treatment regardless of race, gender or religion.

After the announcement of his selection as president, Hale made some brief remarks to the NAACP members present at the convention. He described his 22 years of service in the military, and said that his father had served as a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

“I am grounded in my roots,” Hale said. “I am grounded in the belief that people should be treated fairly.”

Hale, who has seven children and eight grandchildren, talked about the importance of young people having adult role models, and the importance of men being responsible fathers.

“One of the things that I am most proud of is my family,” said Hale. “This organization will be here for my kids and grandkids.”

Hale said that the future of the NAACP rests on its ability to unify, and that the organization’s unity must be faith-based.

“Here in West Virginia we still gather in churches, just like we did years ago,” Hale said.

He said that the NAACP in some other regions of the country has strayed from its spiritual roots, causing division in the organization.

“We need to be inclusive of all religions,” Hale said. “We need to unite and align ourselves with people of faith.”

As the new president, Hale replaces James Tolbert, who served in the position for 21 years.

“I’ve enjoyed working with the civil rights community all these years, and I appreciate the confidence the organization has had in me,” Tolbert said.

Tolbert explained that the state NAACP must now focus on membership and political action — getting its members registered to vote, and getting them to the polls.

Tolbert said the would continue to work on these goals.

“I’m not going away, just stepping down from office,” he said. “I’ll still be here to help with the organization.”

A dinner will be held in Tolbert’s honor at 6 p.m. Oct. 6 at Hilltop House Hotel in Harpers Ferry.

Every two years the state conference of the NAACP has an election for new officers.

The poles were open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the convention Saturday as 48 NAACP members representing 11 state branches of the organization cast their ballots.

Elsie McCray of Beckley was selected as first vice president; Debbie Hall of Morgantown was selected as second vice president; and Larry Logans of Charles Town was selected as treasurer.

The two-day annual convention also serves as a forum for state branch representatives to present information on issues that affect the NAACP, and to discuss the organization’s goals for the coming year.

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