The president of the NAACP (search) is stepping down as head of the nation's oldest and largest civil rights group, according to newspaper reports.

Kweisi Mfume (search), who has been president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since 1996, planned to make the announcement Tuesday, The (Baltimore) Sun, citing an anonymous source, reported in Tuesday editions.

The resignation was also reported Tuesday in a USA Today opinions column by weekly contributor DeWayne Wickham.

Calls from The Associated Press to the Baltimore-based NAACP, which claims 500,000 members, were not immediately returned late Monday night.

Wickham, who has covered the NAACP for nearly 30 years, quoted Mfume in his column as saying: "I came to the organization at a time when it was in crisis, and I'm confident that I'm leaving an organization now that is strong and stable."

Mfume, 56, who gave up his seat in the U.S. House to take over as head of the NAACP, inherited an organization tarnished by scandal and burdened by a $3.2 million debt.

Last month, the NCAAP announced that the Internal Revenue Service (search) was reviewing the organization's federal tax-exempt status. NAACP chairman Julian Bond said the investigation stems from a July speech he gave that was critical of President Bush. Tax-exempt organizations are required to remain nonpartisan.