Jerry Mondesire: Civil Rights Leader

Jerry Mondesire
Courtesy Jerry Mondesire

Delegate: Jerry Mondesire, 58

Hometown: Philadelphia

Occupation: Publisher, Philadelphia Sun, a weekly black newspaper

Why We're Watching: The Hillary Clinton supporter says he's now happy to back Barack Obama but wants to make sure the candidate comes out in favor of universal health care.

Jerry Mondesire is a longtime civil rights leader who threw his support behind Hillary Clinton. He's known as a candid critic of politicians, regardless of their race.

The president of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania NAACP, Mondesire ran as a Clinton delegate in his congressional district, but got crushed by what he calls the "no-name Obama people." The state Democratic committee then appointed him as an at-large delegate.

Raised in New York City's Harlem, Mondesire began his career campaigning for black candidates in Alabama and South Carolina during the 1960s. He then turned to newspaper reporting, first for the The Baltimore Sun, then for The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he covered the administration of controversial Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo.

Mondesire left the Inquirer in 1980 and spent the next decade as chief of staff to then-Rep. William Gray. In 1991, he started his own weekly newspaper, The Philadelphia Sunday Sun.

During the Pennsylvania primary, Mondesire maintained his outspoken support for Hillary Clinton, criticizing Obama's stance on health care and gun control. At the party convention, he says he wants to make sure Obama comes out in favor of universal health care.

Other than that, he says, the convention is one big party — and an opportunity to get face time with campaign staffers.

Mondesire says he's now happy to support Obama. But will he vote for Obama, even though Clinton's name will appear on the first nominating ballot? "I'd have a choice to make then, wouldn't I?" he says.

Susan Phillips reports from member station WHYY in Philadelphia.

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