History of DuPage County Branch from 1953 to Present

Tribute to Bernie Kleina - Lifetime Achievement Winner 

The DuPage County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been active in the county for more than 50 years. It was chartered in November 1956.

Prior to 1953, the DuPage County Branch was an affiliate member of the Maywood Branch. In 1953, William Alexander and Nathaniel Odom called a meeting at Second Baptist Church on Crescent Street in Wheaton, Illinois. Nathaniel Odom was elected the first president of the DuPage County Branch, NAACP.

Nathaniel Odom, a brick mason and general contractor, migrated from Oklahoma to Wheaton. Housing in Wheaton, and for the most part in the Western Suburbs, was not available for Blacks, so he built his own home. Over the years, he and other building tradesmen built homes for other Blacks.

Blacks in DuPage County worked primarily as domestics, chauffeurs, landscapers, Pullman porters and caterers. Although limited in job opportunities, many sent their children to college. Because of limited housing and job opportunities, most graduates were forced to seek employment in other cities or states.

In 1957, Ollie Matthews and Zady Odom organized the Woman’s Auxiliary of the DuPage County Branch. Over the years, their fundraisers were the major financial support for the Branch and the Youth Council. As a result of the consensus of the National Body, the Women’s Auxiliary was renamed Women in the NAACP (WIN) in 1999.

In 1966, the first Open Housing March in the Western Suburbs was held in Wheaton, Illinois. The Branch also supported marches in Aurora and Weston, Illinois. Weston was the proposed site for the Atomic Energy Commission’s construction of the multi-million-dollar atomic particle accelerator known as Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Also, in 1966, the first Scholarship Banquet was held at Stouffer’s Hotel in Oak Brook, Illinois.

On September 20, 1966, Claude Audley, President of DuPage County Branch, submitted the Branch’s proposal for a Fair Housing Ordinance to the Wheaton City Council. In 1967, the City Council of Wheaton passed the first Fair Housing Ordinance in the Western Suburbs of DuPage County. In 1967, 1968 and 1969, more than 30 towns and cities in the Western Suburbs passed Fair Housing Ordinances.

A Tribute to Claude Audley - Presented by Ernie & Carolyn Gibson 

In 1966, as a result of the efforts of the NAACP in cooperation with the Chicago Urban League, trade unions began recruiting Blacks for apprenticeship training in the construction trades. On January 19, 1967, Sydney C. Finley Jr. and Claude Audley, representing the DuPage County Branch, along with representatives from the Chicago Branch, went to Washington, D.C. to meet with the officials of the Atomic Energy Commission. Recommendations were made that a Commission on Equal Opportunity be a major component of the Atomic Energy Commission. It was recommended that guidelines be established to give access to minorities in all skilled trades at Fermilab. The availability of housing and job opportunities would be a major criterion for site selection and construction of the accelerator at Fermilab.

During Charlie Thurston’s presidency (1977-78), he used his financial and money management skills to help the Branch increase its scholarship fund substantially. Over the years, many high school graduates have been awarded four-year scholarships and grants.

Under the administrations of Louis Garland, Ernest Gibson, Carolyn Gibson, Lonnie McIntosh, Olivia Garth, James Rickmond, Marvin Byrd, Frank Jarrett, and Rev. Theresa A. Dear, the areas of civil rights, legal redress, voter registration and job opportunities in the suburban public schools and colleges were vigorously and unselfishly pursued. The officers and hundreds of volunteers continued to work diligently to make a better life for African Americans in the Western Suburbs.

During the Presidency of Theresa Dear beginning in 2003, the Branch experienced great success including growing our Freedom Fund dinner to an average of 600+ attendees, launching a website, establishing the Sydney C. Finley Memorial Scholarship Fund, building the SCF Scholarship Fund from one-year awards to two-year awards, establishing the Claude Audley Leadership Excellence Award, establishing the Barack Obama Young Political Leader’s Award and becoming the second largest branch in the state. One of the most significant accomplishments was having an unknown community organizer, Barack Obama, speak at our Freedom Fund banquet and later become the 44th President of the United States of America.

Mario L. Lambert became president in 2011 after serving four years as Vice President. So far, he has led efforts for high impact youth programs, increased community-wide brand awareness, created a responsive legal redress team, and ignited involvement with the volunteer base. To date, sponsorship has increased over 100%.

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