By Maria Saporta
The founding CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights – Doug Shipman – is stepping down in early June – nearly one year after the attraction opened.
Shipman has been involved with the project for the past decade. It began as a 10-week pro-bono consulting assignment that turned into developing, opening and running the Center this past year. That 10-year journey included the purchase of the collection of Martin Luther King Jr. papers as well as the donation of land by the Coca-Cola Co. for the Center. Shipman also was instrumental in the raising of $45 million in private funding, and he spearheaded the selection of architectural and design firms to take an innovative approach to the destination.
The idea was not to focus on just the history of Atlanta and civil and human rights, but make the Center a gathering place to discuss and come together to explore the issues as they impact the world today.
In making the announcement, the Center announced that Shipman will continue to serve on its board after he steps down as CEO.
“Doug has shown unparalleled leadership and tenacity in bringing to life an idea that many believed could not be accomplished,” said former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who serves as board chair, in a statement.
The Center for Civil and Human Rights has won numerous awards and accolades for its exhibitions, design, and architecture. The release went on to say that many conferences and conventions have chosen to come to Atlanta because of the Center.
A thousand educators have brought more than 50,000 students to experience its educational impact – an indication that the Center has been filling a need.
“I am profoundly humbled that I was called upon to lead the effort to fulfill the hopes held by so many for so long,” said Shipman, who has said he had planned to not overstay his welcome at the Center. “As we approach the first year anniversary, the Center has surpassed all expectations. The Center tells, not only the story of Atlanta’s role in the Civil Rights movement, but a global human rights story.”
Shipman said that now was “the time to pass the baton” and that the board should find a new, long-term leader with the vision, experience and talents to make the Center a thriving destination that will serve generations to come. The organization enjoys a strong team that is fulfilling the ambitious agenda for The Center to host visitors, events, conferences, programs, and educational initiatives. I’m so proud of the trajectory The Center is already on and I am excited for what The Center will accomplish in the future.”
It is not known what Shipman will be doing next. But in a text exchange, he said he would be able to disclose that in the near future.
A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress and a founding NCCHR board member said: “Atlanta owes a debt to Doug that we will only truly realize years from now. The Center is quickly becoming an economic driver for our region.”
Robinson went on to say that the Center “has exceeded everyone’s hopes already and will only grow in the future. It’s stunning what has been accomplished under Doug’s leadership.”
The board has appointed Deborah Richardson, who has been with the Center for four years as executive vice president, to serve as the interim CEO.
Prior to joining the Center she was chief program officer at the Women’s Funding Network in San Francisco. A native Atlantan, Richardson was formerly the CEO of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation; director of program development for Fulton County Juvenile Court; founding executive director of the Juvenile Justice Fund (now youthSpark), director of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA and managing director of the National Black Arts Festival.
Wednesday’s inaugural Power to Inspire Tribute Dinner, which raised $650,000 and will become the Center’s annual fundraising event, was her brainchild.
Richardson is also known internationally for being on the forefront of combating human trafficking. She is the driver behind the Center’s International Human Trafficking Institute (IHTI) that will launch its Freedom Expressions ATL, a campaign to inspire conversations around human trafficking through the use of creative expression, later this month.