MANATEE -- To Edward Bailey, the NAACP has been part of his world since he was a kid.
Now the president of the respected civil rights organization’s Manatee County branch, Bailey recalled recently that he has “always been a member.”
“I grew up in NAACP when I was a child,” said Bailey, 35, of Palmetto, who is originally from Philadelphia but moved to Palmetto as a youngster.
Now, his proudest achievement is that he has been able to keep its membership up, which is “always tough in a voluntary organization.”
He noted in a recent interview that the NAACP has also been able to attract and keep good committee chairs that are involved in a wide range of issues that affect their community, including education, healthcare, youth and social and professional concerns.
Part of his work there involves keeping up with the school board policies, he said.
“When they’re getting ready to do something big, they bring us to the table,” he laughed.
“I’m proud because my mission is: I wanted to connect NAACP to the community, the corporate world and also government,” said Bailey. “We’ve done a good job of being a liaison for all three.”
He remembers how influential his mom, Nettie Bailey, was when he was a teen.
“When I was young, I was at a crossroad, and my mom was a single parent. I was 13,” recalled Bailey.
She found mentors for her young, impressionable son because she realized that he needed a positive male role model, he said.
“She played a real big role in my life,” he said.
One of the mentors she recruited was Dexter McDonald, a pastor and school teacher at the time, who is now a physical therapist.
“He let me see things differently, expanded my mind, how I thought,” remembered Bailey.
Development of young adults is now something of a passion he hopes to pass along to others, too, he said, adding, “My goal now is to create as many opportunities as I can for people in their life.”
“That’s what I want NAACP to be known for -- to create opportunities,” Bailey said.
In 1994, Bailey was dually enrolled at Bayshore High School and Manatee Technical Institute, and graduated from both. He then attended what was then Manatee Community College, studying finance.
In 1995, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and was sent across the world to places like Norway, Italy, Africa, Spain, the Canary Islands.
“You really do a lot of thinking on your feet, there’s not a lot of second-guessing of yourself,” he said. “Around different cultures, people are all the same; overall, everybody is just the same, they want the same things.
“That’s where I get a lot of my leadership, from being in the military,” he explained.
In 1999, he was honorably discharged as a sergeant from the Marine Corps and returned to Palmetto, where he joined his family’s real estate business, and eventually worked for another real estate firm as well.
A productive shopping trip
He had met his future wife, Xtavia, in high school, but they reconnected many years later when they were both shopping at a Walmart. Xtavia works for the Boys & Girls Club and also is a director for the Amer-I-Can intervention-prevention youth program, Bailey said.
The couple has two children, Amara, 10; and Edward, 7.
“He’s gotten along pretty good being a former Marine, with leadership skills,” said Johnny Hunter Sr., of Sarasota, publisher of the Tempo News Service, who has known the Bailey family many years. “He is a very dedicated person to whatever cause he chooses, he follows through on what he believes in, the principles of the NAACP, social justice and equality.
“He exhibits great leadership in doing that,” Hunter added.
Now, Bailey is employed at Sarasota Ford as finance manager/community relations, and when he’s not working, he keeps busy with a whirl of church and civic activities.
He’s a member of African Methodist Episcopal Ward Temple, whose pastor is the Rev. James T. Golden, a former Bradenton City Council member.
In addition to his work with the NAACP, Bailey is a director of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce; a member of the Suncoast Regional Workforce Board, and is a former chair of the Head Start Policy Council.
In August, Gov. Rick Scott announced Bailey’s appointment to the District Board of Trustees, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.
Asked what his goals are at SCF, he replied that he’d like to see the college become even more community-oriented than it is.
“I know they’re very community-oriented school, but I would like to see them do more: Satellite classes in different areas, maybe if it’s possible, in low-income areas,” Bailey said.
“Make it more accessible to students who can’t make it because of their schedules, bring college to our areas,” he said.
He’d also like to do as much as we can to support anti-violence initiatives, yet another way to create opportunities for those who want to better themselves.
“Through SCF, maybe getting retrained, being around positive people, sometimes all it takes is that extra push, that’s all they need is extra encouragement,” Bailey said.
He’d like to see more minorities at the chamber of commerce and the NAACP meetings, too.
His advice for young men who want to get ahead?
“I think all young men, if you want to invite anybody who wants to do better, invite them to come to our meetings,” he said of the NAACP meetings every third Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Palmetto Youth Center, 501 17th St. W.
“We always have a spot for you, we have a lot of guest speakers, you could be looking for a job, or a person to connect with, you may run into them at our meetings, network, grow as a business and grow as a person.”
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.