Clarence Maurice Mitchell Jr. was a civil rights activist and was the chief lobbyist for the NAACP for nearly 30 years. He also served as a regional director for the organization.
Mitchell was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 8, 1911. to Clarence Maurice Mitchell and Elsie Davis Mitchell. Clarence’s brother Parren Mitchell, eleven years younger, would become the first African American from Maryland elected to the United States House of Representatives.
After graduating from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, Mitchell found employment at his hometown newspaper, the Baltimore Afro-American. He later earned a law degree from the University of Maryland.
As a young journalist, Mitchell reported on lynchings and he first testified in Congress in 1933 in support of an anti-lynching bill. In 1938, Mitchell married Juanita Jackson, a fellow Baltimorean who had founded a youth civil rights group and then headed the NAACP’s youth program.
In 1950, Mitchell became director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and legislative chairman of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, a coalition of civil rights, religious, labor, and civic groups. That post made him a leader in the drive for federal civil rights legislation. The breakthrough came with enactment of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, the first civil rights measure passed since Reconstruction.
Mitchell retired from the NAACP in 1978 but continued working. He wrote a weekly column for the Baltimore Sun, served on the University of Maryland’s Board of Regents. He practiced law with his wife Juanita and their son Michael. President Jimmy Carter awarded Mitchell the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980; eleven years after the NAACP gave him the Spingarn Medal, its highest honor. Mitchell died at his Baltimore home on March 18, 1984.