|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Maryland's 7th district
|Assumed office |
May 5, 2020
|Preceded by||Elijah Cummings|
January 3, 1987 – February 15, 1996
|Preceded by||Parren Mitchell|
|Succeeded by||Elijah Cummings|
|President and CEO of the NAACP|
February 20, 1996 – November 30, 2004
|Preceded by||Earl Shinhoster|
|Succeeded by||Dennis Courtland Hayes|
|Member of the Baltimore City Council|
from the 4th district
|Preceded by||Multi-member district|
|Succeeded by||Multi-member district|
Frizzell Gerald Gray
October 24, 1948
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Education||Morgan State University (BS)|
Johns Hopkins University (MA)
Kweisi Mfume (/ / kwy-EE-see uum-FOO-may; born Frizzell Gerald Gray; October 24, 1948) is an American politician who is the U.S. representative for Maryland's 7th congressional district, first serving from 1987 to 1996 and again since 2020. A member of the Democratic Party, Mfume first left his seat to become the president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a position he held from 1996 to 2004. In 2006, he ran for the U.S. Senate seat that was being vacated by Paul Sarbanes, narrowly losing the Democratic primary to the eventual winner, Ben Cardin. Mfume returned to his former House seat in 2020 after it was left vacant by the death of Elijah Cummings.
Mfume was born as Frizzell Gerald Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 24, 1948, the eldest of four. His father, a truck driver, abandoned his family in Gray's youth. Upon the death of his mother, Mfume dropped out of high school at sixteen to begin working as many as three jobs at a time to support his three sisters. He also began hanging around on street corners, which included being in the company of gang members.
In his 1996 autobiography, No Free Ride, Mfume said that he "was locked up a couple of times on suspicion of theft because [he] happened to be black and happened to be young." Speculation as to the degree of his entanglement with the law has varied, especially as he later came into prominence. He fathered five children with several different women during his difficult teenage years. He has since adopted one child as well.
In 1978, Mfume was elected to the Baltimore City Council, where he opposed mayor William Donald Schaefer, whom he accused of ignoring the poor neighborhoods of the city. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986.
In November 1986, Mfume was elected to represent Maryland's 7th congressional district, succeeding fellow Democrat Parren Mitchell. He won re-election to four more terms.
Mfume made himself known as a Democrat with an apparent balance between strong progressive ideologies and a capacity for practical compromise, representing a district that included both West Baltimore and suburban and rural communities, though his primary goal was an increase in federal aid to American inner cities. In his fourth term he was made chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In February 1996, Mfume left the House to accept the presidency of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), stating that he could do more to improve American civil rights there than in the Congress. He reformed the association's finances to pay off its considerable debt while pursuing the cause of civil rights advancement for African Americans. Though many in Baltimore wanted Mfume to run for mayor in the 1999 election, he stayed with the NAACP.
Mfume stepped down from his position at the NAACP in 2004 after an internal investigation of allegations that he had sexually harassed female subordinates. Mfume acknowledged dating an NAACP employee, and in May 2005, he apologized for having had the affair while leading the organization.
The NAACP reportedly paid out $100,000 to settle Mfume's alleged improprieties.
Main article: 2006 United States Senate election in Maryland
On March 14, 2005, Mfume announced that he would seek the U.S. Senate seat of incumbent Paul Sarbanes, following the announcement by Sarbanes that he would not run for re-election in 2006. The Democratic primary for this seat was held on September 12, 2006, and Mfume lost the race to U.S. Representative Ben Cardin.
In the wake of his primary defeat, Mfume was believed to be considering running for mayor of Baltimore in 2007, though he had not publicly expressed interest in such a run. On November 13, 2006, Mfume told a Baltimore-area radio station that "I don't have any plans to run for mayor. She [incoming mayor Sheila Dixon]'s worked for and deserves an opportunity to lead. ... I want her to succeed. I want the city to be united. I think at this point we owe her at least the opportunity to try to lead it."
In March 2010, Mfume was named chief executive officer of the National Medical Association (NMA). In late 2010, he was again rumored to be considering a run in the 2011 Baltimore mayoral election. He left the NMA in June 2011.
In May 2013, Mfume was named chair of the board of regents of his alma mater, Morgan State University. He assumed the position on July 1, 2013, succeeding the interim chair Martin Resnick.
From mid-2013 to mid-2018, Mfume was the principal investigator for the Health Policy Research Consortium.
On November 4, 2019, Mfume announced his candidacy for the special election for his old congressional seat to fill the vacancy created by the death of his successor, Elijah Cummings, in October. On February 4, 2020, Mfume won the Democratic nomination for his former seat, defeating Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the widow of Elijah Cummings. As the 7th is a heavily Democratic, black-majority district, this all but assured Mfume's return to Congress after a 24-year absence. He defeated Republican candidate Kimberly Klacik in the general election on April 28, 2020 and was sworn in on May 5, 2020.
Mfume ran for a full term in the November 2020 race and won, again defeating Klacik.
In the 117th Congress Mfume serves on the following committees:
Mfume is a member of the Prince Hall Freemasons and Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
In 2012, he married Tiffany McMillan, the granddaughter of Enolia McMillan, the first female president of the NAACP.
Mfume acknowledged yesterday that he dated one of the women in that altercation, a female NAACP employee
has acknowledged having an affair with one of the women, D'Andrea Lancelin
Though the allegations against Mfume prompted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to reportedly pay a settlement of about $100,000 to a former female employee, many local leaders in the nation's oldest civil rights organization say they are relieved that the public relations damage isn't worse.
Many believed that the Bolton Hill resident was going to wait until former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume decided whether to seek the office.
Baltimore's former congressman dominated the 2007 mayoral election into February—without so much as suggesting he wanted to run.