The NAACP concluded their annual convention in Baltimore on July 26. In 1969 the organization concluded their convention in Mississippi by awarding Clarence M. Mitchell, a Baltimore civil rights activist then serving as the head of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau, its prestigious Spingarn Medal. Mitchell was given the award for his work in helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, among other things.
July 12, 1969
JACKSON, MISS.–Clarence M. Mitchell, for nearly 20 years an effective lobbyist in Washington, Tuesday night was saluted by the NAACP as “the 101st United States Senator.”
Head of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau since 1950, the 57-year-old Mitchell, a resident of Baltimore who commutes daily to his office near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, was awarded the 54th Spingarn Medal amid a resounding crescendo of applause at the Jackson City Auditorium.
A long-time worker in the veteran civil rights organization, Mitchell was lauded as “one of our own.” The citation accompanying the celebrated Spingarn Medal read:
“For his selfless devotion to the task of ending racial bias; for his uncompromising rejection of racism white or black; for his wisdom and tenacity in pursuit of just laws; for his abiding faith in the enactment of civil rights legislation, particularly the Civil Rights Act of 1968 with its fair housing title:
“The NAACP proudly presents this 54th Spingarn Medal to its own Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., “the 101st United States Senator.”
The presentation was made by Mrs. Bruce B. Benson, president, League of Women Voters of the U.S.
Mrs. Benson paid tribute to Mitchell as “an unchallenged expert in the complex machinery of self-government.”
Mitchell emphasized that he has “the good fortune to be a part of a winning team in the field of federal legislation” which is effective because “we are a cross section of America. We do not draw the color line in our membership, nor do we ask about a man’s religion or his national origin.”
But he warned his delegate friends that “having won the fight to get laws enacted, we must and we shall see that these statutes work and we must improve them whenever and however it is necessary to do so.”
Also he told the delegates that “We must fight to save the Republican party from its new found allies like Senator Strom Thurmond.
“We do not object to putting the spirit of Abraham Lincoln into Mr. Thurmond, but we do object to putting the spirit of Mr. Thurmond into the party of Lincoln,” he stressed.
Mr. Mitchell, a landmark in Washington legislative circles, assumed his position as director of the Washington NAACP bureau ten Congresses and five presidents ago. In 1957, after he had laid the groundwork for the crucial vote counting, the Congress passed its first civil rights act in over 80 years.
In 1964, he promoted the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and there is other vital legislation which bears the Mitchell imprint.