Danatus King, a lawyer who made a long-shot runfor mayor in this year’s elections, said Monday that he plans to step down as president of the local branch of the NAACP at year’s end, concluding a nearly decade-long tenure as the group’s leader and public face.
King took over the local chapter in 2005 when it barely existed, having been more or less inactive for years and without a local head. Today, the group is still small — it has no full-time staff — but it has played a vocal role in debating some of the city’s most racially charged episodes, from the killing of a black college student on Bourbon Street a few months before Hurricane Katrina to the recent use of “stop-and-frisk” tactics by the New Orleans Police Department.
King’s attempt to oust Mitch Landrieu in February’s election never seemed like a serious threat to the mayor. In the end, he took about 3 percent ofthe vote, polling far behind both Landrieu and retired Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris.
Now, King plans to devote more of his time to a small interdenominational church that he founded in 1979, the Church of God Almighty. He will step down when his current term at the NAACP ends in December.
“When you look at what’s happening not only in the Middle East, but here domestically, there are people who are at the point where they need to know that no matter how dire the situation, how hopeless, there is a power,” King said. “There is a being that is real, that can and is working miracles.”
As a venture, King’s church seems in keeping with both the civil rights group he has led and his political campaign — taking on improbable challenges on a shoestring budget.
He said the Church of God Almighty has 20 or 25 members, some of them scattered to other states by Katrina. Before the storm, the church operated out of a building on St. Claude Avenue, which it has since sold. King has carried on the church’s outreach chiefly through weekly sermons on public-access cable.
He said the church’s message is for people of all faiths and even agnostics and those who don’t use the word God at all but accept some type of creator.
“We’re not trying to tell anybody that there are certain laws or rules. None of that,” King said. “It’s simply the message that there is an almighty being.”
King still runs a private law practice, though he said he might need to cut back on his caseload there as he devotes himself more to the church; he mentioned an upcoming “worldwide” speaking tour.
In any case, his exit from the local NAACP will mean a new era for a group that helped spearhead local integration efforts during the civil rights heyday of the 1950s and ’60s. King said the group’s local members will vote on a new president in October, and the winner will take over on Jan. 1.
This article was altered on July 8 to reflect that Danatus King does not receive any pay from the NAACP.