James “Major” Woodall, Georgia Southern University alumnus and former NAACP Georgia Youth and College Division state president, has at age 25 become Georgia NAACP state president.
He and other sources in the state NAACP said his Oct. 12 election by member delegates makes him not only the youngest president ever of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP but also the youngest state conference president in the national organization.
“I feel excited to be able to lead the state conference heading into 2020 and the next decade,” Woodall told the Statesboro Herald. “The term is only two years. However, being able to set the strategic agenda and what it looks like going into that next generation is a huge priority for me, and I’m excited to see what happens when we’re all able to work together for that common goal.”
His term comes at a crucial time for the NAACP’s justice goals and legislative agenda, he said. In addition to the presidential and congressional elections, 2020 brings the 10-year U.S. census, which will be followed by redistricting and reapportionment.
“I ran for state president because far too many people are suffocating from lack of access to healthcare, clean air and water, poor education and mass incarceration,” Woodall said in a state NAACP news release.
To speak at gala
He is scheduled to return to Statesboro Nov. 2 as keynote speaker for the 54th Freedom Fund Gala, hosted by the Bulloch County Branch of the NAACP with the Georgia Southern Chapter and the Bulloch NAACP Youth Council also participating.
During his five years residing Bulloch County, Woodall was elected 2014-15 Georgia Southern University NAACP Chapter president on his way to the 2015-16 Youth and College Division state presidency. He also served as first vice president of the Bulloch County NAACP and remains a member of the branch.
In 2016, he was the Democratic Party’s candidate for Georgia House of Representatives in District 160, where Rep. Jan Tankersley, the Republican, held onto the seat.
Woodall received his bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern in 2016 and is now a third-year graduate student in the Morehouse School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. He is an associate minister at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Marietta.
For the past few years he has also served as a legislative aide, and this year chief of staff, to state Rep. Miriam Paris, D-Macon.
Originally from Riverdale, Woodall received the nickname “Major” in high school, where he was a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet commander. He did not continue in ROTC in college but served eight years as an intelligence analyst in the Army Reserve, becoming a sergeant.
While at Georgia Southern, Woodall also worked as a legal assistant to Francys Johnson, the Statesboro civil rights lawyer and Baptist minister who was 2013-2017 Georgia NAACP State Conference president. Woodall said he “learned to develop a true love and appreciation for the work that we do” by watching and listening to Johnson.
“I’m forever grateful for his mentorship and his guidance. … Granted, I am only here because of the people of this state conference, in the Georgia NAACP, but without him investing in me in many more ways than one, I wouldn’t have been in a position to do so, and for that I thank God for Francys Johnson,” Woodall said.
He was elected by delegates to the Georgia NAACP 77th Annual State Convention, held Oct. 10-12 in Marietta. He outpolled three other candidates, including previous Georgia NAACP State Conference President Phyllis Blake.
Gaskins’ state office
Delinda Gaskins, president of the Bulloch County Branch of the NAACP, was also elected to a higher office in the statewide executive committee, Georgia NAACP secretary. She was already assistant state secretary. Long active in the Bulloch County Branch, she has been its president only since Jan. 1 and will continue in that role while serving as state secretary.
"The NAACP has historically been a breeding ground for progressive leadership, and James’ election is a demonstration that the legacy is not lost,” Francys Johnson said Wednesday. “Both James Major Woodall, as state president, and Delinda Gaskins, as state secretary, will represent Statesboro and Bulloch County well. Both have my full support."
In the same email, Johnson asserted that Woodall “joins a distinguished list of leaders such as the Rev. Dr. Ralph Mark Gilbert, W.W. Law and Professor William Boyd who dared to improve the human condition through the NAACP.”
Noting Woodall’s service as his legal assistant, Johnson said that the new state NAACP president “has a command of the legal matters relevant to the association’s mission” and called him a “preacher in the prophetic tradition of the Black church.”
“James will use his skills as millennial preacher being trained at the Morehouse School of Religion to inspire a new generation to activism," Johnson wrote.
Gala requires tickets
The 54th Freedom Fund Gala will be held Nov. 2 in the ballroom of the Nessmith-Lane Center on the Georgia Southern campus. It is a formal-attire event, with tickets going for $60. For tickets or questions, contact Gaskins at (912) 682-4917.