Marian Wright Edelman Steps Down, and a New Generation Takes Over


She was the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi bar after she graduated from Spelman College and Yale Law School. In Jackson, she was the director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., a position she left to become the counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign, an effort that Mr. King championed before his assassination in 1968.

Mrs. Edelman began to focus on discriminatory practices against children, founding the Washington Research Project, which would become the Children’s Defense Fund.

As a student at Yale Law School, Hillary Clinton interned at the project, and Mrs. Edelman sent her undercover to Dothan, Ala., to investigate what was known as a “segregation academy.” Such private schools, which enjoyed tax-exempt status, were founded to skirt the desegregation of public schools. After legal challenges, they had to establish nondiscriminatory policies to regain tax exemptions.

Mrs. Edelman and Mrs. Clinton remained close through the years, and Mrs. Clinton was chair of the nonprofit’s board, stepping down when her husband, Bill Clinton, first took office as president in 1993.

In a statement, Mrs. Clinton called Mrs. Edelman “a legend” and “one of my heroes.”

“Under her leadership, the Children’s Defense Fund has touched many lives — including mine,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Working alongside Marian decades ago changed the way I saw the world, and I am proud to add my voice to the chorus thanking her for her contributions on behalf of America’s youngest citizens,” she said.

Mr. Wilson is currently the chief executive of the Deaconess Foundation, a church-linked, grant-making nonprofit based in St. Louis that is focused on children.

He grew up in Dallas and later graduated from Xavier University in New Orleans, where he studied political science and theology and got involved in nonprofits. He began his career with the United Way, eventually moving to St. Louis to work for the nonprofit. At the same time, Mr. Wilson, who has described himself as a “street preacher” at heart, served as a minister.



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