Sharpton Eyes White House

The Rev. Al Sharpton is getting ready to step down as president of the civil rights organization he founded to explore a bid for the presidency in 2004.

"Early next year I'll be stepping down," Sharpton said Thursday, in an announcement that had been expected but was nonetheless delivered with a certain amount of fanfare. "I'm going to travel and see if it is feasible to run (for president). I'm inclined to run and I'll determine by spring if it's feasible."

Sharpton said he will begin traveling around the country in 2003 to evaluate whether he could raise the money and build the infrastructure needed to run for president, and, therefore, he would not have the time to run the National Action Network.

Sharpton, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of New York and for the U.S. Senate, has been outspoken on many local and national issues, most notably on police brutality in the highly publicized cases of Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima and on the U.S. military bombing on the tiny Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

Sharpton made the announcement at his 48th birthday celebration, attended by community, political and religious leaders, at Caanan Baptist Church of Christ, where National Action Network Chairman Wyatt Tee Walker is pastor.

Sharpton said he has asked his board to seek a replacement to head the nonprofit grassroots organization he founded in 1991.