A Monroe man whose strong work ethic can be traced to his days spent on his family’s farm in Winnsboro, and lessons learned from attending Ward III High School, now holds the title senior vice president for Ebony Magazine Publishing.
Born and raised in Winnsboro, Walter Jones, 60, attended Ward III High School where he graduated in 1980.
“I have always called Winnsboro home,” Jones shared with The Franklin Sun. “I have eight siblings and I am smack in the middle, four older and four younger. My parents are the late Walter Jones Sr. and Rebecca Jones. My grandparents are the late Firk and Ida Chambers, also from Winnsboro.
Jones said he spent his entire childhood on the farm.
“It was the best life ever, getting up before school to feed the livestock, and picking vegetables
all summer long. It was our way of life,” he said.
Jones was asked about teachers who may have influenced his professional life, which has seen him go from high school, to become fire marshal in Monroe, La., and NFL sports agent, to becoming managing partner of The Groovy Mango (digital marketing) and OneHaven Sports Marketing and Branding. He is also the manager to the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Dak Prescott.
“High school was the best time of my life. I was actively involved in all sports and exceeded in them all. I was also salutatorian of my graduating class,” Jones said.
“I started Ward III in the second grade, which was during integration. And during my time at Ward III, I had two favorite teachers.
“Miss Kay Southern, as she was known back then, was the first person to greet me when I started at Ward III and was also my second-grade teacher. Though she was white, she was the one person that made me feel comfortable and welcome. I was immediately drawn to her for that and she became my favorite teacher for several years. And a few years ago, we reconnected on Facebook after about 50 years, and I had the opportunity to share with her the impact that she had on my life, at such a young age. I will forever love her for making me feel so
welcome and comfortable in an environment where I didn't know what to expect.
“My other favorite teacher was Mrs. Ethel Marshall, but for totally different reasons. Mrs. Marshall was African American and very strict. She was a no-nonsense teacher. And though I was one of the classroom clowns, but not the worse one (Jimmy, Louis and Gary), she would
always get onto me the hardest.
“Back then I really didn't know why, but of course now, I do. She would always pull me aside and tell me that Ineeded to stop playing and clowning around so much and just do my work,
and my work needed to be better than anyone else's in the class, and she wasn't going to give it to me, I had to earn it. I would always get the lecture about having to be better than your counterparts in order to get what you deserve in life.
“She knew that the classroom work came easy to me, but I wanted it to be fun also. But she wasn't having it. Shepushed me to be my best. She instilled the work ethic in me and the drive to be the best at whatever I did. And that is the life lesson that I still prescribe to today. And thankfully, a few years before she passed, I had the honor and privilege of sitting down with her, at her home, to thank her for seeing something in me that I perhaps did not see in myself,
and pushing me to achieve it.
“Because of those two teachers, I was conditioned to see life for what it is, opposed to what it could be, from both ends of the spectrum.”
After high school, Jones enrolled at ULM, formally Northeast Louisiana University, to study journalism, with the ambition of becoming a news and sportscaster, but along the way, “got the itch of becoming a firefighter.” In 1985 he was hired as a firefighter for the Monroe, La.,
“And giving credit to my father and Mrs. Marshall, being a firefighter was not the only position within the department I would pursue. I wanted more,” Jones said.
Jones advanced in the ranks within the department from firefighter, to lieutenant, to public education officer, to dispatcher and eventually fire marshal, for the last 16 years of
a 29-year career. He even went back to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Fire Science and master's degree in Marketing and Hospitality from Columbia Southern University in Orange Beach, Ala., while working with the fire department.
During his career in fire service, Jones said he always wanted to do more and
be more. He sought to become a sports agent, and achieved it. He spent a
total of 22 years in the sports marketing and management industry,
representing some of the most recognizable names and faces in the NFL,
leading him to meet some interesting and well-known people from all
walks of life.
“I marveled at meeting and networking with new people, which is how I was afforded the opportunity that I have today. Marketing was always in my blood, and perhaps I didn't know it until the day my dad purchased a particular car,” Jones shared.
“My dad was perhaps the biggest fan of the late, and great, Coach Eddie Robinson, of Grambling State University. Coach Rob, as he was called, was a paid spokesperson for Oldsmobile. I remember seeing a commercial of coach Rob standing beside a green Oldsmobile 98, with a green vinyl top. And later, that same Oldsmobile ad appeared in the 1973 issue of Ebony Magazine, ironic I know.
“My father loved them both, the car and the coach, to the point that he found that same car, color and all, and purchased it, only because his idol, Coach Eddie Robinson loved it. The day my father purchased that car, I learned a valuable lesson. One person's actions can influence the minds of the masses, and that's just what Coach Rob had done to my dad. It was my introduction to marketing 101.
“And some 40-plus years later, I got to tell that story in a two-page spread, inside of the 2020, 75th Anniversary, hard-cover-table-top edition of Ebony Magazine, Ebony Covering Black America, to which I was a contributingauthor. For me, life has come full circle. The people and things I remembered as a child and growing up are truly my dreams come true.”
The 76-year-old iconic brand Ebony was founded in 1945 by John H. Johnson, and in January of 2021, former NBA basketball player, Junior Bridgeman and businessman, Charles Alexander became the new owners. Since that time, the president of Ebony Magazine Publishing, Lavaille Lavette and Jones have been changing the landscape of the iconic brand, pushing it further into the future. According to Jones, they both felt that the brand needed to reflect the needs and desires of today’s digital culture.
Lavette, Jones and the EMP team set out to do just that. They immediately went to work to create the Ebony Podcast Network. Today, there are 28 podcasters on the network, including Pat Mahomes, Sr. (The Big Mahomes Show), Angela Yee (Lip Service), Tad Prescott (Talking Football Tad Prescott), and Erica Cobb (Come Back With Erica), just to name a few. By the end of the summer, they expect to have around 40 or more podcasters, including some local talents, Alexis Cherrell’s Holistic Wellness, “Wellness Talks With Lexi“, and another very familiar name to the community, Roosevelt Wright III “Reau Fareal”, with Crown Talk. The Ebony Podcast Network can be found wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
The EMP team created the Ebony Covering Black America Book Club which highlights African American authors and their work. That came easy, Jones noted, because Lavette is also a best-selling author and publisher. Over the past few years, Lavette has authored and published several best-sellers, including her latest, ‘Finding Me”, The Memoirs of Viola Davis. Jones and the team at The Groovy Mango are responsible for the digital content and marketing arm for them all.
The book club was launched in January of 2022, and the very first selection was the best-seller, “Hell of a Book” by Jason Mott.
The EMP team recently introduced the idea of the TV show, Ebony Covering Black America, and it has already been picked up by a major network and green lit for the first 26 episodes and is expected to start shooting this summer. Also on tap are Ebony Jr, fall 2023 and the Ebony Book Store, where you can find all your favorite African American authors, books and magazines.
Jones is playing a vital role in the creation, execution, and the day-to-day operation of all the new products and projects for EMP. He is also enlisting the help and support from a few Monroe residents to help bring these projects to life. Local DJ and radio personality, Taurian “DJ TLay” Collins, is the producer for the Ebony Podcast Network and he works in other areas for EMP. Tammy Washington, curator of “Lady L.O.T.U.S Literary Lounge” has just accepted the task of heading the Ebony Book Club, and James Jones, Walter’s brother, works as a contributing consultant for EMP. James’s fresh ideas and creativity are helping to bring new content to the brand, while Tammy’s book club experience is sure to add spice and connectivity to the book club.
Jones explained that it has always been a dream of his to do something with the capacity to bring family and friends into the mix. And it looks like he has landed that opportunity and is doing just that. He also noted that other nationally syndicated projects, outside of the Ebony brand are already in the works and will be coming soon.
To see all the great things that Ebony Magazine Publishing is doing, check them out atwww.ebonymagazinepubishing.com. There you can see what’s going on with the Book Club, Podcast Network, Ebony Jr., the Book Store, and other projects that are on the horizon.