From the small farming community of Bennett’s Point, SC near Charleston, the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III, has risen throughout the ranks of the NAACP to become the Chief Operating Officer of the oldest and most revered civil rights organization. His climb epitomizes the unlimited possibilities of a life of commitment, dedication and purpose.
Rev. Rivers received his bachelor’s degree from Wilberforce University in Ohio, and currently serves on the Board of Trustees. He is an ordained Baptist preacher and is currently pursing a Master of Arts in Theology Degree at the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, MD. He is married to the former Carolyn Smalls of Charleston and has four children.
Always determined to make things better, Rivers has given his time, talents and expertise to the NAACP for over thirty years. He has worked at every level of the organizations-as branch committee chair, advisor of a local youth council; President and leader of the reorganization of the nearly defunct North Charleston, SC Branch; Executive Director of the South Carolina State Conference; Director of the Southeast Region (the largest of the NAACP’s seven regions); Chief of Field Operation; and his current position, Chief Operating Officer. With Rivers at the helm of the South Carolina Conference, NAACP membership in the state tripled from 1984 to 1994. His work led to the election of more than 300 new black elected officials in South Carolina between the years of 1986 to 1994. His skills as a grassroots organizer resulted in massive direct action activities. Among them was the January 2000 historic march and rally that brought over 50,000 people to the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse to protest the state’s flying of the Confederate battle flag.
He has received numerous awards for his civil rights and community work including the Order of the Palmetto, the State of South Carolina’s highest award; the honorary Doctor of Humanities degree by his alma mater, Wilberforce University; and induction into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame. He has appeared on various radio and television programs including Donahue, 60 Minutes, a speaking role in the movie “Separate but Equal” starring Sidney Poitier, BET Tonight with Ed Gordon, among others. In July 2004, at the NAACP 95th Convention, he was recognized as the top NAACP staff professional when he was awarded the Medgar Evers Award of Excellence.