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Current, Gloster B. (1913-1997)

Musician, clergyman and civil rights supporter Gloster B. Current was instrumental in the growth of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP, founded 1909).  Born in 1913 in Indianapolis, Indiana, to John T. Current and Earsy Bryant, Gloster grew up Chicago and Detroit. He earned a BA degree from West Virginia State College in 1941 and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Wayne State University in 1950.  

Current’s role with the NAACP spanned 37 years between 1936 and 1978.  He began his career with a position with the organization’s youth council in Detroit.  Two years later, he married Leontine Turpeau Current (later Kelly), who would become the first African American woman elected bishop in a mainstream denomination. They had three children and before divorcing.

Three years into his NAACP service, Current became vice chairman of national college chapters and chair of the central youth council committee.  He later held positions in the national office as a deputy to the executive director and served most of his time as director of branch and field services, supervising all NAACP membership, field service, and organizational activities.  

Under his supervision, the NAACP grew and nearly doubled its membership from 500 branches and 250,000 members when he began to over 1,700 branches, 460,000 members at the end of his service.  Individually, he helped grow the Detroit branch to a membership of over 25,000, making it the largest branch in the nation.  Current was not a face for the organization; he spent most of his time behind the scenes.  However, he still played a key role in guiding the NAACP throughout the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power era, and the early years of the Jimmy Carter presidential administration.  

Current retired in 1978 and the following year was elected to the NAACP national board.  His retirement was short-lived as he was called back for service as the organization’s deputy executive director in 1983.

An ordained minister, he was a pastor at Westchester Community Church in New York between 1978 and 1983.  After his second retirement he went became the organist at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Queens, New York.  Current was also an established jazz musician who played with various bands in the Detroit area.

Gloster B. Current died on July 4th, 1997, in Queens, of complications stemming from leukemia and pneumonia.  He was survived by his second wife, Rebecca Busch, and three children Angella, Gloster Jr., and John David.    

Sources:
Angella P. Current, Breaking Barriers: An American Family and Methodist Story (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2001); “Gloster B. Current, Civil Rights Leader and Former NAACP executive dies” Jet Magazine (July 21 1997); Lawrence Van Gelder, “Gloster B. Current, 84, Leader Who Helped Steer N.A.A.C.P,” New York Times, July 9, 1997; “Gloster B. Current, ‘Marching Soldier’,” The Crisis 87:10 (December 1980).

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University of Washington, Seattle

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