The 49th annual awards telecast hosted by Anthony Anderson
Airs Live January 15th — MLK Day
Leonard James, III has a voice that is as comforting as running water. It’s low, resonating, authoritative — and it lingers in the mind. These are great qualities to possess and as the chairman of the NAACP Image Award committee, I can imagine it’s come in handy on more than one occasion.
He is also the Founder, CEO, and Chief Strategist of the J3 Advisory Group (J3 AG), a communications and relationship building consulting firm.
Highlights of Mr. James, III prior corporate career include assignments within Exxon Mobil Corporation from which he retired after 38 years. His most recent position was Corporate Policy Advisor, where he directed minority community outreach and advocacy initiatives.
In addition to being chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Awards, he is also on the Board of Directors and its executive committee and chairman of the NAACP Economic Development Committee.
A man of service, he has consistently held key positions within several professional, civic, and social organizations.
Mr. James, III has received numerous honors including being selected by Minority Business News USA as one of its “Outstanding Men of Minority Business Enterprise”, recipient of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) President Award and special recognition from the National Urban League (NUL), the 100 Black Men of America (100 BMOA), the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA), and the Executive Leadership Council (ELC) for his exceptional contributions to his community and society and the demonstration of ethical and effective leadership.
A native of Tuscumbia, Alabama, he holds a Bachelor of Science degree in statistics from the University of Alabama and a Master of Business Administration degree from Louisiana State University.
In reviewing the professional accomplishments of Leonard James, III it’s exciting to put in perspective the wealth of experience that he brings to his role as chairman of the awards committee, as well as inside the organization.
Here is an edited Q&A with Leonard James, III — Chairman of the NAACP Image Award committee.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: Two questions: Why did your team decide to change the “live” broadcast to Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday—MLK Day—January 15th and in your words why is NAACP still vital?
LEONARD JAMES, III: Excellent questions. I grew up in a small, Northern Alabama Town (Tuscumbia). It is the birthplace of Helen Keller. As an 8th grader, I was part of a program called Freedom of Choice and I was one of 6 or 8, African-American kids that integrated into Deshler High School, previously an all-White High School. Later, I was offered an Academic Scholarship to the University of Alabama from 1970-to-1973.
LAS: Alabama was not a very “embracing” city if memory serves.
LJIII: (thoughtful) If you can imagine former Governor of Alabama, George Wallace was in office. He’s the one that tried to stop Miss Jones from integrating into the University of Alabama. He stood at the admission center and [he] refused to admit her. What a lot of people did not know was that Miss Jones was admitted through a rear door and an arrangement that had been worked out to accommodate her entry.
I wanted to remain at the University of Alabama and go to graduate school but I got recruited by Exxon. They offered to not only gainfully employ me but to pay my tuition at
Louisiana State University for a graduate degree. I say all that because I know if it was not for the NAACP, those things would not have been possible.
LAS: Did you have a mentor during these important years?
LJ III: My local [NAACP] branch manager was Mr. Sam Pendleton.
He was an educator at the time. I recognized early on the role that he played in terms of advocacy. Some of the doors that were opened [for me] by Mr. Pendleton [those introductions] afforded me great opportunities. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a very long career with Exxon Mobil, almost 40 years and do some things, quite frankly, economically that my parents, nor I, would have never envisioned at that time.
LAS: Playing-it-forward is the term, I think?
LJIII: This is my way of making sure that to some degree, I am attempting to pay back a debt. Many of us owe the NAACP. If it were not for their shoulders that we stepped on, and the footsteps that we walked in, and some degree of homage [should be given] to all those people that sacrificed and in some cases—quite frankly—gave of their lives.
LAS: You speak with great pride when you share your journey with the NAACP.
LJIII: I am very proud. It was 12 years ago when the then Chairman, Julian Bond, asked me if I were willing to become a member of the National Board of Directors. If you can imagine [me] a young man, having Julian Bond as a mentor.
Mr. Bond actually swore me in [NAACP] and it was one of those most memorable moments of my life. I’m just proud and honored that I’ve been granted the privilege of servicing the NAACP now for the past 12 years as a member of our National Board of Directors and for about six years now also being the Chairman of our NAACP Image Awards committee.
LAS: Impressive—to have Julian Bond as a mentor. Thank’s for sharing that.
LJIII: (reflecting) As a matter of fact, I have an autographed photograph and message [from him] in my dining room, in my home, from Chairman Bond. He and his lovely wife and family members ended being not only mentors but Pamela [Bond] became a very close friend as well.
Let me make an effort to address the second part of your question and that is the airing of the 49th NAACP Image Awards. The event will take place on January 15th—MLK Day—the national holiday honoring the birthday of an individual that I think is the greatest American that has ever lived and that’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
When you look at our Image Awards, particularly since we have been live on TV One over the last four years, going into our fifth year, the one year for sure on NBC prior to that, we always aired the live telecast in February in and around Black History Month. What we found out that in February is that it’s very difficult to compete for viewers as well as live telecast attendees. February is you know is a very short month, to begin with, and it typically kicks off with the Super Bowl also the next three weeks you go through things like the NBA All-Star Game, there is also the Grammy Awards and everyone is aware that the last Sunday in the month of February concludes the [film] award show season with the airing of the Oscars.
LAS: So, the change of date for the live telecast of the NAACP Image Awards to MLK Day was very well thought out. That’s what I am gathering from our conversation.
LJIII: That was the main impetus for making the move to MLK DAY was not only for our 49th. Our 50th anniversary (2019) will take place on MLK Day and we view this as an opportunity for the NAACP similar to what the Oscars do with the last Sunday in February. Spending 40 years at Exxon Mobile has taught me the discipline of planning.
LAS: Anthony Anderson returns as the host—marking his 5th year. But the NAACP Image Awards recognize more than just celebrities.
LJIII: This year in addition to the normal list of A-list celebrities that now attend the show, we will bestow the NAACP Chairman’s Award to Mr. William Lucy. He’s a member of our national board of directors and has been very influential in the labor movement for over 40 years. He worked with Dr. King Jr. and the Memphis sanitation workers in the 1968 sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis, Tennessee. He was also very instrumental in working in South Africa with former President Nelson Mandela on the first free elections that were held there.
LAS: How will the Image Awards connect with the younger generation, which favors using social media?
LJIII: One of the things that we recognize as the Image Award committee is the value and the input from our contacts within the Hollywood community. It’s exactly what you say, that in today’s culture it becomes very important that we communicate across a number of platforms. We’ve created a partnership with INSTAGRAM and we have influencers attending all of our events.
We also have a social media campaign sponsored by AT&T.
To learn more go to the NAACP Image Awards website: http://www.naacpimageawards.net.
FB: /naacpimageaward | Twitter: @naacpimageaward (#ImageAwards)