Attorney Beats Incumbent in Bitter NAACP Contest

Times Staff Writer

After an acrimonious campaign, attorney Joseph H. Duff has defeated controversial incumbent Anthony M. Essex for the presidency of the Los Angeles NAACP chapter by a 494 to 307 tally, the civil rights organization announced Monday.

Duff, who gained prominence through his work in the Los Angeles school desegregation case, said his overwhelming victory showed “there is a lot of interest in the NAACP. . . . This is the largest turnout since the 1960s.”

Duff, 43, said he will focus the chapter’s attention “on what we do best--dealing with the area of civil rights and the general advancement of black people in this country.”

Essex, still seething at Duff’s campaign attacks on his financial dealings, said he is considering contesting the election results but will not do so if his advisers convince him it that would “hurt the community any further.”

Essex added that he intends to file a defamation of character lawsuit against the victor.


The campaign, which concluded with balloting Sunday afternoon at Hamilton United Methodist Church, 6330 S. Figueroa St., was marked by acidic personal attacks.

Duff, who had been first vice president of the NAACP chapter, charged that Essex had been fired from a job as a bank loan officer because he had made loans to himself, his mother and a friend.

Duff, 43, also emphasized a recent formal reprimand of Essex by the national office of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People for having mishandled funds to pay for a $4,800 party and a $310 briefcase.

Counter From Essex

Essex, a 31-year-old financial consultant, countered that Duff had failed to deal with “items of substance” and had distorted his record.

Essex said he left his position as a loan officer at Founders Savings & Loan because of a “conflict with management,” then sued the employer for wrongful termination.

Essex maintained on Monday that he lost the election because of Duff’s “misrepresentations.” Essex, who ascended to the presidency last June when former head Raymond Johnson Jr. moved to Alabama, also questioned whether irregularities at the poll had cost him critical votes.

‘Fair and Square’

NAACP California State Conference President Joseph De Sosa, who monitored the election, said the polling was “fair and square.”

Duff said Essex’s legal threat was “a publicity stunt” because he based his attack on public court records. He added that a challenge to the election results would prove fruitless because “the margin was so wide.”

During his two-year term, Duff said, he will seek to increase chapter membership, prepare for an NAACP annual convention set for Los Angeles next summer and “forge an alliance” with other community agencies on major social issues.

"(Essex) was going to move away from the traditional (NAACP) areas to get to the less traditional areas,” Duff said. ". . . We won’t be the principal agency to solve the gang or the drug problem. But we’ll be involved in the discussion.”

Also elected Sunday was a slate of Duff backers, including attorney George Mallory, first vice president; Aldra Henry, a development specialist for the county community development commission, second vice president, and Compton Municipal Court Commissioner Ellen C. DeShazer, third vice president.

Times staff writer John H. Lee contributed to this article.