National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Milwaukee Branch, Records, 1917-1989


The Milwaukee Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was organized with 80 members in 1915, six years after the establishment of the national office in New York. By the end of 1915, local membership had increased to 265. From 1930 to 1949 the organization was inactive, but was then revived by a group of young people discouraged by difficulties encountered in gaining job promotions. The membership grew from 31 in 1951 to 1200 in 1952, and to 3257 in 1961. The NAACP is still an active organization, although in recent years leaders have been discouraged by the lack of response to their annual membership campaigns.

Branches, such as that in Milwaukee, may include youth councils and college chapters. Youth council membership is available to those between the ages of 16 and 25, while junior youth councils accept members ranging in age from 12 to 15. The branches within a state comprise a state conference, which, in turn, is associated with a regional office. The national office, located in Baltimore (formerly in New York City), coordinates the activities of its many components, and receives a pro rata share of all membership fees from the branches. A Washington Bureau lobbies for and against legislation in Congress. The annual convention is the highest authority within the NAACP, empowered by the Association's constitution to formulate binding policies and programs of action.

Within this administrative structure, the local branches operate with a great deal of autonomy. Committees, both standing and special, perform most of the important work of the organization. An executive committee, composed of the branch officers, standing committee chairpersons, presidents of the youth councils and college chapters, and senior branch advisors of the junior youth council and youth council, exercises general control over each branch. This committee, which meets at least monthly, decides all matters of branch policy, subject to endorsement by the membership, and in accordance with national policy. Its members draft the yearly budget for the branch, create special committees, and review the recommendations of all committees. Special committees, such as the personnel committee, are sometimes formed for a brief period to meet the specific needs of a branch.

For many years, Wilbur and Ardie A. (Clark) Halyard, prominent Milwaukee business and community leaders, directed the work of the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP. Born in South Carolina, Wilbur Halyard co-founded the Columbia Savings and Loan Association in 1925--Milwaukee's only black-owned bank. In addition to serving as the bank's secretary-treasurer and managing officer, Halyard became president of the Milwaukee NAACP in 1929. He also acted as Wisconsin State Conference treasurer from 1958 to 1959 and was a member of that organization's board of directors. He was active in NAACP work until his death in 1963. After graduating from Atlanta University, Ardie A. Clark married Wilbur Halyard in 1920. The couple moved to Wisconsin later that same year. She was co-founder and assistant secretary of the Columbia Savings and Loan Association. In 1951 she was elected president of the Milwaukee branch--the first woman to serve in that capacity. Mrs. Halyard was also instrumental in organizing the Wisconsin State Conference of the NAACP. She served as the Conference's first president as well as treasurer. As an active leader of many community groups, she has fought tirelessly against racial discrimination.

For more information see “Our History,”