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NABJ Celebrates the Life and Legacy of James Washington, a Stalwart of the Black Press

A mentor, a teacher, a media mogul. This is how his former mentees and industry colleagues described James Washington when he was nominated for and received NABJ’s 2019 Legacy Award. NABJ selected Washington in recognition of the many barriers he broke across multiple industries and for the journalistic blueprints he left for others to follow.

Washington passed away on April 2 at the age of 73, but his legacy of inspiration and impact will live on.

“Mr. Washington was a champion for and pillar of the Black Press,” said Ken Lemon, NABJ President. “He was not only a successful communications practitioner and media executive for over five decades, but he was a longtime friend and supporter of the NABJ family, as he was celebrated for helping to elevate the careers of Black journalists and media professionals around the country.”

Washington was respected as an expert across multiple fields, including public relations, corporate communications, advertising, ethnic marketing, broadcast, print news, and digital publishing. He was a pioneering figure in Black media leadership and ownership.

A prestigious Danforth Fellow, Washington founded Focus Communications Group in 1980, a public relations and advertising agency. He also worked as a public relations leader for the then-Dallas Ballet and the American Heart Association National Center.

His early impact in showing the power of Black leadership in the news and media industries was quickly recognized, as he was named “Man of the Year” in 1986 by the Dallas Metropolitan Club of Negro Business and Professional Women. 

Washington acquired the Dallas Weekly in 1989, which is known as the largest and most widely read Black newsweekly in North Texas. For many years, he served as both the CEO of the Dallas Weekly and the president and general manager of the Atlanta Voice Newspaper, the largest audited Black community newspaper in Georgia. 

In addition to his constant efforts to transform the landscape of diversity, equity, and inclusion in both communications and journalism, Washington was a resounding voice for all members of the Black community and a stellar community activist. For his community impact, Washington was honored by organizations such as the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, The Links, Inc., United Way, Dallas Independent School District, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, Daniel “Chappie” James Learning Center, the NAACP, the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, the Dallas Museum of Arts, and the State Fair of Texas.

Washington twice served on the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce board, the Dallas Arboretum, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and the National Newspaper Publishers Association. He was a former tri-chair of Dallas’ Commission on Race Relations and the Dallas Together Forum, and the Federal Reserve Bank’s Small Business and Agriculture Advisory Committee in Dallas.

In 1971, Washington obtained a bachelor’s degree in English and instructional Media from Southern University in Baton Rouge. He received a master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1973).

Washington is survived by his wife Janis L. Ware, publisher of The Atlanta Voice, and 2021 NABJ Legacy Award winner. He also leaves behind his loving children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.

A celebration of life service will be held on April 10 at 11 a.m. at Elizabeth Baptist Church, 4245 Cascade Rd. SW, Atlanta, GA 30331.


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