(CNSNews.com) – NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume announced Tuesday that he is resigning "to pursue new challenges in media, politics and business."

Dennis Hayes, general counsel of the group, has been named as interim president and CEO while a national search for a new chief executive is conducted.

Mfume, who has led the civil rights organization since 1996, will be leaving his post on Jan. 1, 2005. "For the last nine years I’ve had the honor and privilege to help revive and restore the nation’s oldest and largest civil right’s organization. The people I have met along the way and the lessons I have learned have been invaluable, but sadly for me the time has come to set sail and to chart a new course," Mfume said.