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Hilary Shelton

NAACP lobbyist and policymaker Hilary Otis Shelton was born on August 12, 1958, in St. Louis, Missouri. Shelton received his B.A. degree in political science from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and went on to attain his M.A. degree in communications from the University of Missouri in St. Louis.

Shelton first worked as the federal program policy director for the United Methodist Church’s social justice agency, The General Board of Church and Society. There, he worked on the church’s public policy agenda, particularly on issues pertaining to black colleges and universities. He was highly involved in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and also advocated for several other important acts including the Violence Against Women Act. A champion of causes affecting the African American community, Shelton then went on to serve in the position of federal liaison/assistant director to the government affairs department of The College Fund/UNCF, also known as The United Negro College Fund, in Washington, D.C. There, Shelton worked with federal government agencies and departments, as well as colleges and universities to secure the survival, growth, and educational programming excellence of the forty private historically black colleges and universities throughout the United States.

From there, Shelton moved on to the NAACP’s Washington bureau, where he handles federal and legislative affairs as well as public policy concerns for the organization’s Washington, D.C., office. Shelton serves on a number of national boards of directors including The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, The Center for Democratic Renewal, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute among many others. Shelton has been honored numerous times for his work. He was the recipient of the National NAACP Medgar W. Evers Award for Excellence, the highest honor bestowed upon a national professional staff member of the NAACP; the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Excellence in Advocacy Award; and the Religious Action Center’s Civil Rights Leadership Award in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Shelton lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Paula Young Shelton, and their three sons, Caleb Wesley, Aaron Joshua, and Noah Otis Young Shelton.

Accession Number

A2008.098

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/28/2008 |and| 3/5/2012

Last Name

Shelton

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Harrison School

Beaumont High School

Humboldt Academy of High Learning

University of Missouri - St. Louis

Northeastern University

Howard University

First Name

Hilary

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

SHE04

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

There's Nothing You Can't Get Done If You're Willing To Let Someone Else Get Credit For It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

8/12/1958

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Crepes (Fruit)

Short Description

Civic leader Hilary Shelton (1958 - ) was the head of the NAACP Washington Bureau. He helped to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the Violence Against Women Act. He also served as the United Negro College Fund's federal liaison, and as the federal program policy director for the United Methodist Church’s social justice agency, The General Board of Church and Society.

Employment

NAACP Washington Bureau

Washington Office on Africa

National Impact

United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

United Negro College Fund

Greater Boston Legal Services

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Hilary Shelton's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Hilary Shelton lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Hilary Shelton describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Hilary Shelton remembers the attacks on his maternal family in Gore Springs, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Hilary Shelton describes the African American community in Gore Springs, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Hilary Shelton talks about his maternal grandparents' land

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Hilary Shelton describes his parents' courtship

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Hilary Shelton describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Hilary Shelton describes his father's education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Hilary Shelton talks about his parents' marriage and move to St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Hilary Shelton describes his father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Hilary Shelton describes the personalities of his parents and grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Hilary Shelton describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Hilary Shelton remembers his household in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Hilary Shelton describes the North City neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Hilary Shelton describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Hilary Shelton recalls the prevalence of crime in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Hilary Shelton talks about the '20/20' investigation of segregation in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Hilary Shelton describes his experiences of racial discrimination in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Hilary Shelton remembers the gang violence in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Hilary Shelton remembers the faculty of the Harrison School in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Hilary Shelton talks about his parents' interest in politics

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Hilary Shelton recalls his introduction to the NAACP at the Antioch Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Hilary Shelton recalls the civil rights leadership of St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Hilary Shelton describes his experiences at the Humboldt School in St. Louis, Missouri, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Hilary Shelton describes his experiences at the Humboldt School in St. Louis, Missouri, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Hilary Shelton describes his experiences at Beaumont High School in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Hilary Shelton remembers the band at Beaumont High School in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Hilary Shelton recalls the music of his youth

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Hilary Shelton remembers the Black Student Union at Beaumont High School

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Hilary Shelton recalls the films and television shows of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Hilary Shelton recalls the films and television shows of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Hilary Shelton describes his involvement with the NAACP Youth Council

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Hilary Shelton talks about Clarence Thomas

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Hilary Shelton describes his early aspirations

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of Hilary Shelton's interview, session 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Hilary Shelton recalls his influences at Beaumont High School in St. Louis, Miss

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Hilary Shelton talks about the demographics of St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Hilary Shelton describes his early involvement in civil rights activities

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Hilary Shelton remembers meeting Frankie Freeman

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Hilary Shelton describes the activities of the Black Student Union at Beaumont High School in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Hilary Shelton recalls his decision to attend Howard University

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Hilary Shelton describes his involvement with the American Indian Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Hilary Shelton talks about his experiences at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Hilary Shelton recalls the notable speakers at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Hilary Shelton describes his work at Greater Boston Legal Aid, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Hilary Shelton describes his work at Greater Boston Legal Aid, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Hilary Shelton remembers the United States Student Association

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Hilary Shelton describes his forensics professor at the University of Missouri - St. Louis

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Hilary Shelton talks about the administration of President Ronald Reagan

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Hilary Shelton talks about the administration of President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Hilary Shelton describes his master's thesis on the Iran Contra Affair

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Hilary Shelton remembers lobbying the University of Missouri to divest from South Africa

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Hilary Shelton describes how he came to join the Washington Office on Africa

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Hilary Shelton describes his work with the Washington Office on Africa, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Hilary Shelton describes his work with the Washington Office on Africa, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Hilary Shelton talks about the Civil Rights Act of 1991

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Hilary Shelton recalls the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Hilary Shelton recalls his experiences at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Hilary Shelton recalls his experiences at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Hilary Shelton remembers the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Hilary Shelton describes his position at the United Negro College Fund

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Hilary Shelton describes how he came to head the NAACP Washington Bureau

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Hilary Shelton remembers the Million Man March

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Hilary Shelton describes the history of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Hilary Shelton describes his work at the NAACP Washington Bureau

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Hilary Shelton talks about racial profiling, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Hilary Shelton talks about racial profiling, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Hilary Shelton reflects upon President Barack Obama's administration, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Hilary Shelton reflects upon President Barack Obama's administration, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Hilary Shelton describes the NAACP's current lobbying activities, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Hilary Shelton describes the NAACP's current lobbying activities, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Hilary Shelton reflects upon the racism in the United States today

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Hilary Shelton describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Hilary Shelton reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Hilary Shelton reflects upon his life

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Hilary Shelton talks about his family

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Hilary Shelton talks about the influence of his grandfathers and uncles

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Hilary Shelton describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

2$2

DATape

8$7

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
Hilary Shelton describes his position at the United Negro College Fund
Hilary Shelton remembers lobbying the University of Missouri to divest from South Africa
Transcript
How long did you work for the United Methodist?$$About ten years.$$Ten, okay.$$And I left the United Methodist Church to go to work for the, for the United Negro College Fund.$$Okay.$$Of course, the, the name is slightly different. It's still the same organization. They just changed their name to UNCF, the college fund. So I spent some time working with Bill Gray [HistoryMaker William H. Gray, III], who at the time was the president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund or U--UNCF the college fund, working at the government affairs office here in Washington, D.C., to try to help find, really, resources, money and other resources for those--at that time, forty-one historically black colleges and universities.$$Okay, now this is the beginning of the Bush administration, right?$$Yes--$$Okay.$$--it, it was part of the Bush administration. But interestingly enough, when it comes to HBCUs, there's a tendency for even Republican administrations to be very helpful to HBCUs. Education seems to be one of those areas, most of the time--sometimes it gets used for political pra- in, in a politically problematic way as well, but most of the time education, particularly in support for those HBCUs, seems to rise above the partisan fray. It is something good to see. So the Bush administration, both Herbert Walker Bush, and more so than, than George W. Bush [President George Walker Bush], was very, very supportive of HBCUs and, and other programs, including the White House office on HBCUs [White House Initiative on Historically Black College and Universities], in addressing those concerns.$$Yeah, I think George W. Bush during this period made his famous statement that a Negro is a terrible thing to waste [sic.]--$$Oh--$$--or something, it was something (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) I, I, and I think that was Dan Quayle. Yeah, yeah--$$Oh, that, yeah, yeah--$$--his vice president at the time (laughter).$$--the convoluted--yeah, during the old Bush (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, they've got--$$I'm sorry.$$No, no, but you're right; that was, that was [President] George Herbert Walker Bush's vice president at the time. And I remember how, how he kind of sloshed that, that slogan, but (laughter)--$$A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and he added convoluted--$$Yeah, ex- exactly, exactly (laughter).$$Right. Okay, all right--$$I think he had a little problem swallowing potato too during that time.$$Okay, UNCF, so, so what were--well, the, the issue was always to raise money for--$$Absolutely, absolutely. It was a different approach for me. You know, I've, I'd always been more actively involved in not for profit organizations that focus on really bringing as many people on board to support moving the agenda forward. So in essence, we leveraged our policy positions by educating as many people and then coordinating how they approached their members of [U.S.] Congress, House [U.S. House of Representatives] and [U.S.] Senate, the White House, and even, and the government agencies and the like. So, but the UNCF, the focus was less that and more focusing on engaging those historically black colleges and universities, the support of the corporate community along those lines, but also the engagement and support of the federal government to address, you know, helping to secure those black colleges, to be able to provide a good high quality education at an affordable price. So it was a little bit different than the work we'd done around the more controversial issues. As a matter of fact, you kind of, in, in that arena, you stay away from a lot of the controversial issues. You're primarily go- primary goal all the time is to raise money. And I, I remember sitting down with Bill Gray the first time. And I had in my mind the same kind of construct we use here at the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] that we'd use at the United Methodist Church and other groups I'd worked for, which is the construct in which you engage members, have them join a network, set up coalition partners throughout the country, and then leverage them when we're trying to pass pieces of legislation throughout the House and the Senate or trying to, to engage the president of the White House in what we're trying to do. But there was always a concern that if we went that route, that it might become too partisan in its perception and that having people engaged along those lines, writing letters to those businesses and so forth, might actually create a problem for the continuation of the fundraising. Even though we knew that everything we'd be doing would be quite legal within the construct of a 501(c)(3), there were those concerns, so we kind of changed the approach. Quite frankly, that's also why I ended up missing the civil rights community, missing that engagement for those membership units across the country, whether it's in churches or, or whether a small civic organizations or groups in local communities. I missed that engagement of people in the process and the struggle for civil rights advancement. And the, and of course, that's why I decided to leave the United Negro College Fund and, and come to work for the NAACP.$Now what did you do after graduate school?$$That came to the--I came to Washington, D.C. As I was finishing my program at the University of Missouri - St. Louis [St. Louis, Missouri], one of the big issues for us was apartheid in South Africa. And the big movement among colleges and universities was to divest holdings in all corporations that do business in South Africa. This is a time in which, of course, Nelson Mandela was in Robben Island [South Africa]. It was a time in which apartheid was the law of the land in South Africa, and of course, the colonial power of the, the, of South Africa was one that was affecting the entire region. So it was an amazing time along those lines. We were working then as students in a progressive movement to not support those corporations or U.S. interests that would exploit people of African descent in South Africa. So, I had, I met with a guy named Damu Smith. Among other things I did as a student, I also sat on advisory board while with the U.S. Student Association [U.S. National Student Association], with the American Committee on Africa out of New York [New York], with TransAfrica [TransAfrica Forum; TransAfrica] here in Washington, D.C., and the Washington Office on Africa, which also here in Washington, D.C. These were the three premier Africa focus groups working on apartheid and South Africa issues and focusing on those nine southern states of South Af- of Southern Africa and how the Republic of South Africa was affecting even their stability. So, Damu Smith was someone I'd met in some of those meetings. I was finishing up and really wanted to come back to Washington and get involved in an advocacy type organization and position but wanted to focus on the federal government, on the [U.S.] Congress and the government agencies, of course. We were finishing up my program at the same time we were also finishing up a disinvestment of corporations doing business in South Africa that were in the university's portfolio, both their endowment portfolios as well as their pension funds. We were able to convince then Governor Ashcroft [John Ashcroft] from Missouri, that later became the attorney general of the United States and Senator Ashcroft prior to becoming attorney, as, as well as a Republican treasurer in Missouri, a guy named Wendell Bailey, that it was not in the best interest of the State of Missouri nor the University of Missouri to invest funds in corporations that do business in South Africa that many argued took over 750,000 jobs out of the United States to South Africa, where they force black people to work for less money than white folks, where the law of the land prohibited black folks from supervising over white folks, or moving to high--and corporate structure, so and where security and--well, where, where calm was created through force, the guns. And we were seeing all the videos of Soweto [South Africa], the, the videos of uprisings in other parts of South African, and, and the very harsh response from South African military forces and others, killing so many South African blacks along the way. So with all that going, we were able to convince the governor--at first the, first the treasurer of the state, who was also a Republican, that it made no sense for Missouri to invest money in corporations that are taking jobs out of Missouri anyway and actually working against the very issues of the students. Most students were going to college to prepare themselves for jobs. Doesn't make sense for us to take student money and put it into corporations that are taking those jobs our students want out of the country to have people doing it that were, they pay much less money. We shouldn't have to compete with that, especially with our money. And they got it, and indeed the governor signed a bill that was introduced and passed through the state legislature that the students were actually involved in pushing. We were able to get the board (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) So this is--I'm sorry. This is nineteen eighty--'84 [1984]?$$Yeah.$$Eighty-four [1984], okay.$$Yeah, yeah. We were able to get the, we were able to get the university to divest all of this money from holdings in corporations doing business in South Africa through its Board of Curators. It's what they called their board of regents, and they call it in some other place the Board of Curators. And I remember those fights and whatnot during my years at the University of Missouri.$$You all were good then. You, you were really paying attention in class.$$We, we, we worked it out. As a matter of fact, I, I think I, I had to be, be too pushy about it, but I think in some ways we, we added something to those classroom conversations with what we did outside. Some of the professors really appreciated it. As a matter of fact, because this was as much a movement in the political science arena, most of the political science apret- professors were really fascinated by the work we were doing and very supportive along those lines. But also, when you talk about disinvestment, that's actually a business term, and the University of Missouri also had a business school [University of Missouri - St. Louis College of Business Administration, St. Louis, Missouri]. And we were able to engage the business student government as well into some of the things we were doing that draw a parallel for us to even Harvard's business school [Harvard Business School, Boston, Massachusetts]. I mean, the arguments we were making were not just social justice arguments. They were business arguments. They were investment stabilities arguments. They were arguments about which divet- which investment portfolios would derive the best return for the university, for its professors as they retired, but also the running of the school, as we're talking about programs along those lines. See, it was a, it was a fascinating thing, getting those different sectors, and very eye opening for me, involved in a movement to actually impact what was going on in South Africa by involving ourselves into social corporate behavior here in the United States.$$Okay. Now, were you getting paid to do any of these, these activities at that time?$$Not really. As a matter of fact, while I was at the University of Missouri, because I held office, we got a stipend, you know, which went to pay my tuition and that kind of thing and whatnot. So it freed me up in some ways to be able to do this kind of work, but it was all voluntary.$$Yeah, so I figured you kind of on a lean budget there.$$Oh yeah, yeah, I was poor student.