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  • Sincerely, Southern

Woodall takes local inspiration to the national NAACP level

By M'Anais Lam

Photo courtesy James Woodall

Five years ago, James “Major” Woodall graduated as a political science major at Georgia Southern University. At the age of 25, he became the youngest ever elected state president of the NAACP.

Born in 1994, Woodall grew up in Riverdale, Georgia with a single mom and three siblings: a twin sister, an older brother, and a younger sister. He would often spend his days with his grandmother, embracing the legacy of the church community of College Park, Georgia.

Although he was actively a part of the church life in his community, he never saw himself as a Reverend.

“I ran away from church,” said Woodall. “But if you look at the legacy that I grew up on, the family, the investment of people and community. It was something that was grounded in my very soul.”

Woodall spoke on the legacy of his family and the tradition of military involvement by the males in his family.

In high school, Woodall was a part of the ROTC, an organization that he quickly excelled in by becoming cadet commander while notably being heavily involved in sports like football, basketball and wrestling.

Not only that, he also was the student government president which allowed him to nurture his love for the political stage, even setting up an ongoing path to it.

“Politics is my love, it’s my passion, it’s what I’m good at, my natural gift,” said Woodall. “Diplomacy, policy, just the mind of analysis. That’s really being a part of my whole experience here as a human being.”

He quickly realized with the constant change in locations, it would prove to be more difficult to go very far with a sports scholarship to college. Because of this, he followed tradition at 17 and joined the army.

After graduating from Riverdale High School in 2012, he joined the military as an intelligence analyst and quickly excelled in his role by exploring his critical thinking skills.

“Once I went to the military, my experience as a human being expounded,” said Woodall. “There’s a process of thinking that goes into military intelligence from how you approach war, how you approach critical analysis, and reading comprehension.”

Woodall left the military as a sergeant and is currently an veteran of eight years in the United States Army. His time in the military equipped him with the skills and talents to be the leader he was always meant to be by giving him the knowledge to remain impartial in high pressure situations.

He attended Georgia Southern University and described his time there as “Good trouble.” From leading sit-ins at the president's office to protesting for the multicultural student center he always fell into the role of leadership.

With political science as his area of student, he felt limited by professors who told him he could only be a lawyer.

Nonetheless, he worked as a legal assistant to Francys Johnson, a popular civil rights attorney and pastor in Statesboro.

Pastor Johnson, a member of the NAACP since 2006, was someone who guided Woodall on his current path. With Pastor Johnson's help, Woodall began to learn more about civil right’s laws and state level operations of the NAACP.

Woodall became active in the NAACP after the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner and quickly granted the Next Gen Leadership program, and was the vice president of the Bulloch County NAACP and became president of the Georgia state youth and college program.

His first official entrance to politics came in 2016, when he ran for state representative because he felt strongly about how politicians handled guns being allowed on student campuses. He lost the race, the experience only encouraged him to become a more knowledgeable politician.

Woodall completed his masters of divinity for three years at the Morehouse School of Religion from the Interdenominational Theological Center. In October 2019, he was elected as president of the Georgia NAACP, succeeding the first female president.

Georgia is currently leading the south in NAACP membership and Woodall plans to remain in office by running for re-election this fall.

Jalon Ross, a senior civil engineering major at GS, had the privilege of meeting Woodall in January.

“I fortunately had the honor to share the stage with him on the same day for an MLK program and his speech was both impactful and meaningful,” said Ross. “With him being so young as a black male leader it really shows me that I am on the right track and I look forward to teaming up w/ leaders like him in the future.”

When the suggestion of a bigger role such as president of the United States was made, Woodall said he had no plans on running and his current goals are to settle down and have a family.

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