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James Winston

Communications attorney James L. Winston was born on August 24, 1947 to Corrie Conwill Winston and Jeff Winston in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has one other sibling, Frances Winston Adderley. Winston graduated from Belmar Elementary School in 1959 and enrolled at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh. After attending Westinghouse, Winston was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He graduated with his B.S. degree in electrical engineering in 1969. Three years later, he received his J.D. degree in law from Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Upon graduation, Winston was hired as an attorney for the Roxbury Multi-Service Center in Boston. He then worked for the New York-based law firm LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby and MacRae as an attorney specializing in public utility law before serving as associate counsel for the Western Union Telegraph Company in Washington, D.C. In 1978, Winston worked as a legal assistant to Federal Communications Commissioner Robert F. Lee. After two years with the FCC, he was hired as an associate attorney by the Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen law firm, also in Washington, D.C. Winston then became a managing partner in the law firm of Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke, LLP in 1981, specializing in telecommunications law. Additionally, he served as executive director and general counsel for the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, Inc. starting in 1982.

For nine years in a row, Winston was named one of the “Leading African Americans in Radio” by Radio Ink magazine. He was also inducted into the American Urban Radio Network Hall of Fame and presented the “Lifetime Leadership Achievement Award.” Winston was also inducted into the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council Hall of Fame and presented its “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

In addition to his achievements, Winston has served on the advisory boards for the Federal Communications Bar Association Executive Committee, the Elon University School of Communications in Elon, North Carolina and the Florida A&M University School of Journalism & Graphic Communication in Tallahassee, Florida. Winston is married and has four adult children. He resides in Silver Spring, Maryland.

James L. Winston was interviewed by the The HistoryMakers on May 3, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.083

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/3/2012

Last Name

Winston

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

L.

Schools

Belmar Elementary School

Westinghouse Academy

University of Pennsylvania

Harvard Law School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Pittsburgh

HM ID

WIN07

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Herb and Sheran Wilkins Media Makers

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Martin

Favorite Quote

Think for yourself. Don't let others do your thinking for you.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

8/24/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken (Blackened)

Short Description

Broadcast executive and telecommunications lawyer James Winston (1947 - ) is one of the leading advocates for African American radio broadcasters in the country.

Employment

Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke, L.L.P.

National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB)

Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

Western Union Telegraph Company

LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP

Roxbury Multi-Service Center

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Winston's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Winston lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Winston describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Winston discusses his mother's childhood in Rienzi, Mississippi and how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Winston describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Winston talks about his father's career at Westinghouse Electric in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Winston talks about how his parents met and married and he talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James Winston describes his parents' personalities and his likeness to them

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James Winston talks about his mother's success as an insurance salesperson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - James Winston talks about segregation and "white flight" in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the 1960s

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - James Winston describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - James Winston describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - James Winston describes his childhood home and neighborhood in Homewood, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Winston talks about his childhood interest in drawing, television, and movies

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Winston talks about the racial makeup of Belmar Elementary in Homewood, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Winston talks about sports in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when he was young, and the dearth of black professionals in his neighborhood of Homewood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Winston talks about his parents' church attendance

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Winston talks about his family's newspaper and magazine subscriptions

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Winston talks about his favorite subjects and his favorite teacher in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Winston talks about his changing interests in middle school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Winston talks about being a Boy Scout and an Explorer

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - James Winston talks about his favorite teacher in middle school

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - James Winston talks about attending high school at the peak of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - James Winston talks about the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the streetcars and the winters in Pittsburgh

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - James Winston talks about working in an electrical engineering laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University/Carnegie Tech

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - James Winston talks about his first transistor radio and his memories of listening to WAMO Radio in Pittsburgh

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - James Winston talks about being the swim team manager in high school, and his skill as a chess player

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - James Winston talks about his teachers and mentors in high school and his academic excellence

Tape: 2 Story: 16 - James Winston talks about the sound academic counseling that he received in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Winston talks about choosing to attend the University of Pennsylvania, his experience as an engineering student there, and considering law school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Winston talks about his involvement with the Society of African and Afro American Students (SAAS) at the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Winston recalls his reaction to Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Winston talks about his interaction with other black students in Philadelphia

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Winston talks about focusing on his academics in his senior year at the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Winston describes his decision to attend Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Winston describes his positive experience at Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James Winston talks about working as a community activist and as a part-time anti-apartheid activist in Roxbury, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - James Winston talks about leaving the social service sector and accepting an offer from a law firm on Wall Street, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - James Winston describes his positive experience at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby and MacRae law firm, and his decision to leave New York to start a family

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Winston recalls the encouragement that he received in the New York office of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby and MacRae law firm

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Winston describes his experience at the Washington office of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby and MacRae law firm, and his reasons for leaving

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Winston talks about working at Western Union Telegraph Company in Washington, D.C., pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Winston talks about working at Western Union Telegraph Company in Washington, D.C., pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Winston talks about Commissioner Robert E. Lee of the FCC, and his positive experience as his legal assistant

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Winston talks about the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) and his longtime involvement with this organization

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Winston talks about the FCC commissioner, Robert E. Lee's support of UHF television

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James Winston discusses the popularity of FM radio

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Winston talks about Robert E. Lee's leadership of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Winston explains the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Fairness Doctrine

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Winston discusses the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) promotion of minority ownership of broadcast properties, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Winston discusses the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) promotion of minority ownership of broadcast properties, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Winston talks about the huge growth in African American ownership of radio and TV stations in the late 1970s and early 1980s

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James Winston talks about how the Reagan administration weakened FCC policies that promoted minority ownership of broadcast properties

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James Winston talks about the challenges that he faced as the director of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB)

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - James Winston talks about the deregulation of broadcasting during the Reagan Administration

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - James Winston talks about U.S. Congress legislation that hurt minority ownership of broadcast properties

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - James Winston talks about the consolidation of radio and television ownership as a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James Winston reflects upon the importance of minority ownership of businesses and the changing face of television and radio

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James Winston reflects upon the lack of African American entrepreneurship in the technology industry

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James Winston talks about the lack of a strong African American voice on the internet

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James Winston discusses the shortcomings of Arbitron's portable people meter, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - James Winston discusses the shortcomings of Arbitron's portable people meter, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - James Winston talks about his law firm, Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris, & Cooke

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - James Winston describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - James Winston reflects upon his legacy and the need for young African Americans to pursue entrepreneurship in technology

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - James Winston talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - James Winston talks about the future of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) and the significance of radio for social change

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - James Winston talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

16$9

DATitle
James Winston talks about the sound academic counseling that he received in high school
James Winston talks about leaving the social service sector and accepting an offer from a law firm on Wall Street, New York
Transcript
So what kind of counseling did you get [at Westinghouse High School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania]? Did they, did you have a good counselor in terms of--$$Well, it's very interesting, because most of my classmates will tell you that we did not have a good counseling system. However, I'm the exception. She did a good job by me. It was an older white woman named Miss Simon, and so you were scheduled to come in and meet with her at the appropriate time. And so I came and met with her, and she said "Where do you want to go school, what do you want to major in? I said, "I really hadn't thought about where to go to school, and I really hadn't planned what to major in." And she said, "You're good in math and science. You ought to think about becoming an engineer." Then she told me that--this is now, this is the spring of 1965--and she said "Schools are looking for--." I'm sure she called me, I'm sure she said a colored student. "They're looking for good colored students, and I think you can get a scholarship to a very good school. I think I can get you in college, to an Ivy League school." I said "Okay." So she said--she mentioned Penn, University of Pennsylvania, to me. I assumed she was talking about Penn State [University]. She said, "No, no no, not Penn State, the University of Pennsylvania. It's an Ivy League school based in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]." So I went to library, looked up Penn, saw it was based--it's inside the city of Philadelphia. I said well, inside the city of Philadelphia, that's cool, because if I don't like the school, I can hang out in Philadelphia. And then I looked up engineering as a career, and I saw that electrical engineers were the highest paid college graduates that year. And so I said "Yes, I'd like to go Penn, I'd like to major in electrical engineering." Well, my father [Jeff Winston]--when I told my father, and this is 1965--I told my father that Penn cost $2500 a year. And he told me I'd lost my mind because he was making about $6000 a year. So the notion that I could go to--and this is $6000 before taxes. So, the notion that I could go to a school which cost $2500 a year was absurd to him. And so I said "Ms. Simon thinks I can get a scholarship." And he says, "Nobody's going to pay you that kind of money to go to school." And so--$$He didn't equate being on the Honor Roll with being able to get a scholarship?$$No, not at all. Because, you know, I mean, because he's a poor black boy from [Boonville] Mississippi and his son is just a poor black boy's son. (laughter) And so, and he was making very little money. And so I told Ms. Simon that I couldn't apply to Penn because my father wouldn't pay the $15 application fee. And so Miss Simon said, "Well ask your father to come in and see me." And so I went home and told him what Miss Simon said, and he actually came in to see her, which was surprising. And what was also surprising was he didn't give her any of the objections he gave me. So she said, "I think your son can get a scholarship to Penn, and I think you ought to pay the application fee." He says, "Oh, okay." I'm like, "Why did you give me all that grief?" (laughter)$But after a year of that [working at the Roxbury Multi-Service Center as a community activist and on the anti-apartheid movement], for a variety of reasons I decided it was time to leave Boston [Massachusetts] and move to New York. And I went to New York and worked for a large law firm there. And so I did a whole 180 in terms of my work life. So, going from a social service agency to working for a big Wall Street law firm--$$Now, what was it, was there any incident or some revelation that took place?$$It was, well, a couple things. At the time, I was married to my first wife. And her name is Carmen Tyler Winston--$$Did you meet her at Harvard [Law School]?$$No, we met at Westinghouse High School [Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania]. We met in junior high school. We go back a long ways. And, so Carmen wanted to go back to school. She had been working while I was in law school. My last two years of law school, she was there. We got married at the end of my first year. So, she was working my last two years of law school and she wanted to go back to school and get another degree. She wanted to become a nurse. And she already had a bachelor's degree in biology, so in order to get a bachelor's degree in nursing without doing the whole four year program, there was a program at Cornell Nursing School in Manhattan [New York] where you could get a bachelor's degree in nursing in two years. And so she wanted to go there and do that. And, I had decided that the work I was doing at Roxbury Multi-Service Center, well, I didn't find it fulfilling. I didn't feel like we were making any change whatsoever. And--$$What kind of work were you actually doing there, in terms of--?$$Well, we were advising the social agency on how to develop sustainable change in the community. So, it was, for example, trying to figure out to help tenants, but not going to court and helping the people that were being evicted, but trying to think through programs for how to make the community change in a more meaningful manner.$$So it wasn't really necessarily legal work.$$Right, exactly. And, what happened was it was clear to me that if you're a social service agency, you live by getting grants. So, whatever the grant making community decided was a hot subject that year, that's what you would apply for a grant for. And so the agency got a grant for an ex-offender program, and they hire an ex-offender to run it. And they hire the ex-offender at $10,000 a year. I was making a $10,000 a year. He was an ex-offender and I had a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from Harvard [Law School]. And I looked at this, and I said I'm probably over-qualified for where I'm working. And so I realized that I had too much education for the work I was doing, and decided that I wanted to do something different. So, when my former wife, when my wife at that time decided she wanted to go to Cornell in Manhattan, I said, okay I'll try to get a job in Manhattan. Well, I was not a member of the New York Bar, so I couldn't get a job with the Legal Aid Society, and I couldn't get a job with the public defenders, because I wasn't a member of the New York Bar. And they told me they'd have to pay me like a law student who had just graduated from law school. I was a member of the Massachusetts Bar, so I said well, this is unacceptable, because I was going to make less money in New York than I was already making in Boston. They were offering me $7,000 or $8,000 or something. And so, I decided, you know this doesn't make any sense. I need to get a job at a real law firm and make real money. And I got interviewed by a big Wall Street law firm [LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby and MacRae], and they represented a lot of public utility companies. There were a lot of technical issues in their representation. So, they liked the idea that I was an electrical engineer, and so they hired me and I went to work down on Wall Street.