*The music industry mourns the loss of a legend; former music executive, Adolph “A.D.” Washington, who passed away on November 22, 2017, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Born July 10, 1940, to William Ferguson and Ida Belle Wayne Ferguson in Scott, Arkansas, Adolph was affectionately known as A.D.
At 77 years old, A.D. was an active and longtime member of the Living Legends Foundation (LLF). He served as chairman of the organization from 1998-2011 and was a board member at the time of his death. This year, the LLF presented him with a special award for serving as the longest chairman in the LLF’s history. A.D. was one of three chairmen to preside over the organization since its inception in 1991.
During A.D.’s 13-year tenure, he led the organization into the 21st century. He supported then President Miller London’s brainchild to institute the inaugural LLF Golf Tournament, which turned out to be a successful fundraiser for the organization.
In an interview last year with noted music journalist A. Scott Galloway, A.D. talked about his journey with the LLF and the history of the organization.
“Our golf tournament put much-needed money into the treasury to help supplement the banquet,” said A.D. “It also gave people outside of record companies—then our primary, yet shrinking source of revenue—an opportunity to participate in the fundraising process. NFL players and NBA coaches, even the sons of R&B legend Otis Redding participated. We held the first tournament in Georgia. With it being in the South, we had great participation, and people flew in from all over. So we kept it there.”
The LLF’s signature Annual Awards Dinner and Gala continued its affiliation with the Impact Super Summit in Nashville, Tennessee, and Miami, Florida until Impact ceased operation of its annual conference. The LLF Annual Awards Ceremony then moved to New York City at the Hilton Hotel for a few years.
With a temporary setback in 2010, A.D. put the annual event on hold to regain financial stability of the organization. In 2011, the LLF resumed the gala at the Highline Ballroom in the meat packing district in New York City before returning to Los Angeles in 2014.
In 2016, A.D. joined the LLF for its Silver Anniversary Gala in Los Angeles. “It’s always been my opinion that if you have an organization that rises to the needs of the people that it serves, and your administration stays solid as a rock, your chances for survival will be strong,” said A.D. “This is how the Living Legends Foundation survived; the constituency comprised of upstanding volunteers. The organization survived for 25 years without scandal. We have always been well-purposed and well-blessed.”
A.D. received his undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, with additional studies at the University of Central Arkansas at Conway. Before he became a music executive, A.D. was employed at Arkansas’ U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Department, under then-Governor Bill Clinton.
A.D. started his career in the record industry at Stax Records before moving to Los Angeles, where he held senior executive positions at MCA, Warner Bros., and Capitol Records. As Senior Vice President of MCA, he led his staff to unprecedented success with artists such as New Edition, Bobby Brown, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, Teddy Riley, Heavy D, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Patti Labelle, Jody Watley, and Guy, among others. After leaving the music industry, A.D. formed AD Barak Corporation, an entertainment consulting firm.
A life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, A.D. Washington is survived by this father William Ferguson, his son Kevin Jones, and his sisters Classie Ferguson and Irma Ferguson, along with a host of extended family members and friends.
On behalf of the Living Legends Foundation’s founders, officers, and board members, we celebrate the life of Adolph “A.D.” Washington. A leader, and a servant, who loved God, his family, friends, and community; and a man who lived life in purpose.
Ray Harris, Co-founder of the Living Legends Foundation
When I received the news about our beloved friend and colleague A.D. Washington, it left an indelible feeling of pain and sorrow in all of us. He has been a pioneer and leader in the music industry and an indispensable part of the development and growth of the Living Legends Foundation. When Jerry Boulding and I founded this organization in 1991, A.D. was one of the first people we called upon to join the foundation. We started the Living Legends Foundation to honor our trailblazing pioneers and lend a financial hand to those in need. A.D. embodied the principles and standards that we envisioned for the organization.
When I decided to step down as Chairman of the Living Legends Foundation, I called A.D. and asked him whether he would be interested in assuming the position of chairman, before I announced it to the officers and board members. He humbly agreed. I recommended him as my replacement knowing that under his leadership the organization would be in good hands. The rest is history. With his steadfast leadership, he guided the foundation through its toughest financial period, from the late ‘90s through the early 2000s, which was a tumultuous time in the music industry.
Words cannot describe this kind, gentle leader, mentor, professional and friend who meant so much to so many of us in the music business and beyond. His profound legacy will be remembered throughout the history of the LLF. Thank you, kind soul. You can rest in peace knowing that we all are better because of you.
David C. Linton, Chairman of the Living Legends Foundation
I heard about A.D. Washington before I met him. I had been appointed Southwest Regional Promotion Manager for Warner Bros. Records and relocated to Dallas, Texas in 1988. A.D. was one of several promotion managers from the Southwest who leaped to “Home office” from MCA Records in Los Angeles, California, where he was named Senior Vice President of Promotions.
When I was a local promotion manager, A.D. came through the market with a rock star persona. Little did I know how our lives would later be connected and a friendship would grow. First I learned that we were fraternity brothers; life members of Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc. It wasn’t until I got promoted to “Home office” for Warner Bros. Records in Burbank, California did I get to know him. As both a competitor and friend, A.D. was an industry icon for sure.
In 1999, I became Senior Vice President of R&B Promotions and Marketing at Capitol Records and was tasked with reviving the label’s dormant Black Music Department. I reached out to A.D. to join the team as one of two Vice Presidents; Unice Rice was the other Vice President. Many people asked: “Why would you hire A.D., who in essence could do or take your job?” Well, that’s exactly why I hired him. I wasn’t hiring him just to be a promotions executive; I was hiring him to be my “Consigliere.” His wisdom was his best qualification and skill set. I wanted him on the team to help me educate the young staff of music executives.
We continued to serve on the Board of Directors of the Living Legends Foundation, where he became the chairman leading the foundation through some tough times as I served him as Vice President, President and succeeded him as chairman. This year, the foundation honored him for his role as the longest serving chairman in the foundation’s 26-year history. I will always remember his logical approach to life and work. It was his wisdom that helped us be successful at Capitol Records, and it was his wisdom that helped the foundation grow. He was a brother, friend, mentor and I will sorely miss his presence.
Varnell Johnson, President of the Living Legends Foundation
It has been difficult to try and find the right words to describe A.D. Washington. In 1977, I met A.D. at the Jack the Rapper Convention. During the 40 years that I’ve known him, I found him to be a man of integrity, principle, and loyalty to his tribe and the Living Legends Foundation. May he rest in eternal peace.
Kendall Minter, General Counsel of the Living Legends Foundation
What defines a man and the life he’s led?
How much money you’ve made, how many children you’ve fathered, what jobs you’ve held, your education and degrees, your home or the car you drive? Or, is it your heart, compassion for others, the sacrifices you’ve made to benefit others, the education and knowledge that you’ve shared to empower and lift up those around you, your love for your family and how you support and embrace your friends?
For A.D. Washington, it’s the latter. A.D. has always been a giver, an educator, a great friend and mentor to many, an avid golfer, an institution builder, a diligent and successful music industry executive and now a friend who has left us with fond memories and a legacy to continue.
I first met A.D. more than 25 years ago when he was one of the leaders of the major label Black Music Department cadre who helped to propel Black music from limited categorization as R&B to pop music.
A.D. was always eager to step up to the plate to assist, lend a thoughtful ear and take up the charge. His dedication to the Living Legends Foundation helped solidify our organization’s mission and success.
Little Rock had more than one favored son. Bill Clinton shares the spotlight with A.D., and we proudly claim him as one of our music industry family. My good brother will be sorely missed, but his smile, encouraging words, golf stroke, and easy going manner will long be remembered.
Jacqueline Rhinehart, Vice President, the Living Legends Foundation
A.D. Washington was a man of admirable grace and humility. He was an encouraging colleague and music industry trailblazer. He will be missed.
Miller London, former President and current board member of The Living Legends Foundation
If there were a Grammy, Oscar, or Tony Award for Executive of the Year, A.D. would have a mantle full of trophies. He was responsible for the successful careers of so many artists and people in the record business. He touched so many lives you might think of him as a mega church minister. In fact, he sometimes reminded me of a Southern preacher.
He started out as a regional promotion manager in Texas with MCA Records and elevated himself to senior vice president of the company. He helped guide the careers of artists and staffers at three major record labels, MCA, Warner Bros. and Capitol Records. What I admired most about A.D. was his fairness, honesty, and commitment. If you did not want the truth, don’t ask A.D. We started out as competitors, then business associates, then friends, and finally we were close as brothers. There have been many great executives in this business, and A.D. Washington ranks right up there in the top five. Those he touched will never forget him, and I am sure have a lifetime of great memories. Rest in peace my Brotha.
C.C. Evans, Treasurer of the Living Legends Foundation
I can’t remember when or where I met A.D. Washington. I do know I’m one of the fortunate ones to have known and worked with A.D. during our tenure at Warner Bros. and Capitol Records. Not only was he my mentor, he was also a very close friend. A.D. always looked on the positive side for any problems that arose and encouraged others to do the same. I love A.D., and I will always hold a special place in my heart for him.
Pat Shields, Recording Secretary of the Living Legends Foundation
Everybody knew about A.D. Washington, even before they met him. His reputation was of a successful promotion executive who motivated his staff to be number one in the industry. They took no prisoners. I was at Warner Bros. Records when Denise Brown brought him in to run our promotion staff. The first time I went into his office, I found the television on the Bloomberg Channel where he could see the stock ticker. That’s when I learned that A.D. was as passionate about wealth building as he was about airplay charts and sales figures. Beneath the kind, Southern gentleman lived a shrewd politician and money manager.
He inspired his staff without intimidation and, in return, he got the best out of them. When he married Elese in Palm Springs, our entire staff drove down from Los Angeles to celebrate his happiness in finding a soulmate. It was almost like an industry convention with so many industry people in attendance. He was also passionate about the Living Legends Foundation, and while the internet was still new to some people, he was looking for a company to build their website. He was focused on keeping the organization moving forward with all of the new technology. He saw the changes coming to the music industry and wanted to make sure the Living Legends Foundation had the tools necessary to adjust and adapt to those changes.
His legacy will be all of the executives and artists who he has mentored, who will use his advice not only in the music industry but in life. We’ve been comforting each other by sharing AD-isms and memories of various experiences. The one that comes up often was when he would say, “FAN-tastic.” I don’t think I’ll hear that word again without thinking of A.D. I plan to live life out loud and make it FAN-tastic.
Sidney Miller, Board Member of the Living Legends Foundation
I first met Mr. Washington in Dallas at the Young Black Programmers Conference. I rode back to Houston with him where he was scheduled to work that following week. His conversation was not like a local promotion representative, but more like a master politician. He was already planning a power move to utilize his position with the Young Black Programmers for gain at MCA Records. His political suave was missed by most because of his use and expression of the English language, but behind it all, he got his way. God Bless A.D. Washington.
The Living Legends Foundation, Inc. is a registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization and has been funded primarily with corporate contributions and individual donations. The 26-year organization has expanded its mission to assist those who have served the music industry and who have a confirmable need. This assistance is provided in a manner that maintains the dignity of those who may receive financial help. The Living Legends Foundation Scholarship program helps the educational pursuits of the next generation of music makers and marketers at three historical black colleges and universities.
The Living Legends Foundation current officers and board members include Chairman David Linton, President Varnell Johnson, Vice-President Jacqueline Rhinehart, Recording Secretary Pat Shields, founder and Treasurer C.C. Evans and General Counsel Kendall Minter, Esq. Board members include co-founder Barbara Lewis, Vinny Brown, Sheila Eldridge, Marcus Grant, Ken Johnson, Miller London, Sidney Miller, Kathi Moore, Jon Platt, Gwendolyn Quinn, Sam Weaver, and Colleen Wilson.
The Living Legends Foundation current advisory board members include a list of distinguished entertainment executives: founder Ray Harris, Monica Alexander, George Daniels, Brad Davidson, Skip Dillard, Kevin Fleming, Tony Gray, Shannon Henderson, Sharon Heyward, Allen Johnston, Alonzo Robinson, Kevin Ross, A. J. Savage, TC Thompkins, Irene Ware, Buzzy Willis and Tony Winger.
The Living Legends Foundation Board members who have served over the years: Doc Wynter, Doug Banks, Ken Wilson, Lionel Ridenour, Mike Bernardo, and Valerie Marable.
The Living Legends Foundation Advisory Board members who have served over the years: Alan Lott, Cecil Holmes, David Lawrence, Demmette Guidry, E.J. Williams, Hank Spann, Joe Booker, Johnnie Walker, Michelle Madison, Pete Jones, Reggie Rouse, Ronnie Johnson, and Troy Marshall.
Gwendolyn Quinn is an award-winning media strategist and consultant with a career spanning more than 25 years. She is a contributor with NBCNews.com/NBCBLK.com, BlackEnterprise.com, HuffPost, and EURweb.com, among others. Quinn is also a contributor to Souls Revealed and Handle Your Entertainment Business.