ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gerald Stansbury was not yet 12 when civil rights activist Medgar Evers was assassinated June 12, 1963, in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Miss.
The lifelong Broadneck resident is one of seven from across the United States receiving the inaugural Medgar W. Evers Medal of Freedom presented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at its 104th annual conference in Orlando, Fla., this week.
The winners, said Benjamin T. Jealous, CEO of the national NAACP, “are the lifeblood of their communities and this great association.” The medal is intended to honor “an individual or group who has demonstrated a lifetime of courage and laid the foundation for present and future leaders in the cause of civil and human rights.”
Stansbury also is being considered for the Kelly M. Alexander Award for NAACP State President of the Year, said Jacqueline Boone Allsup, president of the Anne Arundel County NAACP.
Stansbury, 62, is now in his fourth two-year term as president of the Maryland State Conference NAACP, a voluntary position. Prior to that, he served for a dozen years as president of the Anne Arundel County chapter. His full-time job is as an equal opportunity compliance officer in the Baltimore office of the state Department of Human Resources.
“In just the past two years, his work as state NAACP president has been key to the passage of some of the most progressive legislation in the nation,” said Frank Stella, president of the Maryland-D.C. Alliance for Retired Americans, noting passage of legislation renewing the ban on automatic weapons and other gun control measures and voter approval of the Dream Act.
“This past session of the General Assembly, he had a meaningful hand in death penalty, health care, education and civil rights for women, minorities and other dispossessed people about the state,” said Vince Leggett, director of the Annapolis Housing Authority and founder of Blacks on the Chesapeake.
While he was growing up, Stansbury’s mother and his father were civil rights activists. The Rev. George A. Stansbury was the minister of the Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Laurel, and organized the NAACP chapter there. His parents were present when the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
His childhood was spent in and around the Mulberry Hill community near the Naval Station on the Broadneck Peninsula. Though his parents attended the Rosenwald school for blacks in nearby Browns Woods, Stansbury attended first the former Parole Elementary School in first grade, and then the old Adams Park Elementary, now the Adams Academy, off Clay Street in downtown Annapolis. He is a 1969 graduate of the old Bates High School, now the Bates Legacy Center. Those schools were all segregated then.
After three years in the Army, Stansbury joined the Phelps Protection Systems, founded by George Phelps, also a veteran and the first African-American hired by the sheriff’s office in Anne Arundel County.
“He worked for me for 19 years and is an outstanding man,” said Phelps. “He came to me as a guard and became vice president of this firm. Stansbury kept forging on. That’s why I give him such high marks. Among the people of Anne Arundel County, his leadership is unbelievable.”
“He’s been a great role model for me in his leadership and management style,” said Allsup, a professor at Anne Arundel Community College.
“He went from fighting for those rights in (Anne Arundel) to fighting for those rights across the state of Maryland. He’s very passionate about what he does,” she said. “On a personal level, I find him to be very open, friendly and he’s a caring person, concerned about others.”
Married 38 years to Neva Stansbury, also active in the NAACP, the couple has two adult children, and have been guardians of others. One, Sydney Smith, 20, still lives with them.
They dote on their three grandchildren. “I’m wondering what kind of world they will have,” Stansbury said.
His involvement in the county NAACP developed from his voluntary position as a boys basketball and baseball coach.
“He coached my two sons,” said Carl Snowden, a civil rights leader and a professor at Sojourner Douglass College in Edgewater. Among the impacts Stansbury had during his tenure as the county’s NAACP president “were the federal court decisions that invalidated and found unconstitutional anti-drug loitering laws in city of Annapolis,” said Snowden.
“He’s moved NAACP at the state and national level to a far more aggressive agenda,” said Snowden. “It used to be focused exclusively on the rights of African Americans. Now, it also focuses on rights of Latinos and immigrants. Why is the NAACP focused on these issues? Well, the NAACP is for all people.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)