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Terrie Williams

Author and public relations entrepreneur Terrie Williams was born in Mt. Vernon, New York, on May 12, 1954. Williams attended Pennington Grade School, where one of her fellow classmates was actor Denzel Washington, and graduated in three years from Mt. Vernon High School in 1971. Williams attended Brandeis University following high school, earning her B.S. degree in psychology in 1975, and then attended Columbia University, where she earned her master’s degree in social work.

After working for a number of years as a social worker, Williams founded the Terrie Williams Agency in 1988, after meeting Miles Davis in the hospital. Williams began representing Davis, and her next big client, Eddie Murphy; since that time, she has gone on to represent superstars such as Janet Jackson, Russell Simmons, Johnnie Cochran, Stephen King, and Sally Jesse Raphael, as well as organizations such as HBO and Essence Communications. The Terrie Williams Agency went on to become a division of PGP Communications, where Williams served as vice chair.

Williams authored three books: The Personal Touch: What You Really Need to Succeed in Today’s Fast-paced Business World, Stay Strong: Simple Life Lessons for Teens and A Plentiful Harvest: Creating Balance and Harmony Through the Seven Living Virtues. Stay Strong has been used nationwide in schools, and was the catalyst for launching the Stay Strong Foundation, a nationwide non-profit organization for youth.

Williams was a highly sought-after speaker, speaking at engagements with Fortune 500 companies, universities, and numerous other organizations. Williams is the recipient of several awards, including being the first African American to win the New York Women in Communications Matrix Award, and the Citizen’s Committee for the New York Marietta Tree Award for Public Service.

In 1998, Williams donated her papers to the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, making them the first gift of papers donated in the public relations field.

Accession Number

A2004.165

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/17/2004

Last Name

Williams

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Mount Vernon High School

Pennington Grade School

Brandeis University

Columbia University

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Terrie

Birth City, State, Country

Mt. Vernon

HM ID

WIL18

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Youth, Adults, Corporations, Colleges

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $5,000 - $10,000

Favorite Season

Fall

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: Youth, Adults, Corporations, Colleges

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

Stay Strong.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/12/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lemon Cake, Vanilla Ice Cream

Short Description

Author and public relations chief executive Terrie Williams (1954 - ) was the founder of the Terrie Williams Agency, a public relations firm that has represented notables such as Miles Davis, Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson, Russell Simmons, and Johnnie Cochran. In addition to her public relations work, Williams is also involved in youth social work; she has authored motivational books that are used by schools nationally, and co-founded the Stay Strong Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at helping teens.

Employment

Terrie Williams Agency

PGP Communications

Essence Magazine

Favorite Color

Quartz Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Terrie Williams' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Terrie Williams lists her favorite things

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Terrie Williams describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Terrie Williams describes her maternal grandmother's perseverance during the Great Depression

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Terrie Williams talks about her father and how he met her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Terrie Williams describes her father's career and her early childhood education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Terrie Williams talks about her ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Terrie Williams recalls her early childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Terrie Williams describes her childhood neighborhood in Mount Vernon, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Terrie Williams describes Robert Fulton Elementary School and Pennington Elementary School in Mount Vernon, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Terrie Williams remembers her influential elementary school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Terrie Williams describes her childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Terrie Williams describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Terrie Williams describes family trips to North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Terrie Williams recalls her time at Mount Vernon High School in Mount Vernon, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Terrie Williams remembers being a high school exchange student in Colombia, South America

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Terrie Williams recalls her interests and activities at Mount Vernon High School in Mount Vernon, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Terrie Williams talks about battling depression

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Terrie Williams talks about decision to attend Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Terrie Williams reflects on lessons learned at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Terrie Williams describes her experience working at a state mental institution

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Terrie Williams remembers influential people from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Terrie Williams describes an impactful sociology course at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Terrie Williams describes her social work training at Columbia University School of Social Work in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Terrie Williams talks about her entry into the public relations field

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Terrie Williams describes how Eddie Murphy became her first public relations client

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Terrie Williams talks about representing Eddie Murphy

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Terrie Williams talks about her many celebrity clients

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Terrie Williams talks about challenges she faced as a public relations representative

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Terrie Williams talks about representing Miles Davis

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Terrie Williams reflects upon the challenges of being a celebrity

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Terrie Williams talks about her foundation work and her publications

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Terrie Williams talks about the qualities needed for success in the public relations business

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Terrie Williams talks about speaking to young people through The Stay Strong Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Terrie Williams talks about her work with Project Believe

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Terrie Williams talks about her third book, 'A Plentiful Harvest: Creating Balance and Harmony Through the Seven Living Virtues,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Terrie Williams talks about her third book, 'A Plentiful Harvest: Creating Balance and Harmony Through the Seven Living Virtues,' pt. 2[EH1]

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Terrie Williams talks about the future of the Stay Strong Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Terrie Williams describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Terrie Williams reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Terrie Williams lists well-known people from her hometown, Mount Vernon, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Terrie Williams describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Terrie Williams narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

2$8

DATitle
Terrie Williams describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up
Terrie Williams describes how Eddie Murphy became her first public relations client
Transcript
What were some of the sights and sounds and smells of growing up?$$Got exposed to a lot, museums. I remember meeting--going to the Negro Ensemble Company [(NEC), New York, New York] plays. We would go as I said to museums and I remember going to the [Solomon R.] Guggenheim [Museum, New York, New York] and meeting Mike Wallace, I didn't know who Mike Wallace was but my mom [Marie Kearney Williams] was like '60 Minutes,' that's Mike Wallace, I just remember that. I remember the Guggenheim and meeting Mike Wallace.$$Was it a formal meeting of him or was he just there?$$He was just there, he was just hanging out at the museum like we were and I started being intrigued early on for some reason when I met celebrities, I started kind of collecting autographs even when we would go to the NEC productions--the Negro Ensemble Company productions being rather excited about meeting performers afterwards and getting their autographs or in Mount Vernon [New York] if city hall was having some kind of production or a concert, I would want to meet people afterwards who performed and kind of get their autographs or something like that. I was kind of intrigued by those things early on and I guess I mentioned that because my life became as an adult representing some of the biggest names in the business but it was just funny to me that early on I just had a little bit of intrigue about that but very early on. It was interesting the way you posed that question the sights and sounds and smells of growing up. Just early on my parents wanted to expose my sister and me to just as many things as possible and there was a girl that I'd met, her name was Judy Singer--Judith Singer who had five brothers. She lived on the north side of Mt. Vernon and very, very cultured family, they were always very, very interesting people coming in and out of her house all of the time and hung out with her and her family a lot. Her brothers would sometimes take her to the city and so we would do lots of different kinds of things with her and her brothers. So just venturing out to see the world and always being exposed to culture, art, poetry, photography, that's what my life was like--our life was like.$$So a lot of what happened outside of Mount Vernon impressed you in terms of culture and learning.$$And also my dad [Charles Williams] was really in to horses so we used to go to a ranch every summer and hang out and we'd meet people there. I would ride the horses but I was really scared of them, really scared. I think horses are absolutely exquisite animals, I love looking at horses but I was scared to ride those things, but we used to do that, too--$Did you have any prior experience in public relations?$$Just those two classes that I had taken and it was an amazing--the two classes that I had taken, the volunteer work and then Essence was really my training ground and it was there that I built the foundation of my business at Essence. They knew that I had a strong entrepreneurial spirit. I gave them 110 percent and then some. I honored my position there, I never shirked my responsibility but at the same time I always knew I was going to have my own. I had a very fiercely independent streak. There's that entrepreneurial thing in me. So they always knew that I was going to have my own thing and then during the time I was there, Cicely Tyson who was then married to Miles Davis had a birthday party for him and because Miles and I had stayed in touch, I was invited to the birthday party. Eddie Murphy was there with a friend and his cousin and so I established a rapport with them. Everybody always wants something from the celebrity. I would say to hey to Eddie but I was connected with those two guys and at the end of the night--it was on a boat and everybody was there. Those two guys invited me to come to a club where Eddie was going to be performing. So I went and took really good care of me and my guests and that was it. Sent them a thank you note and then I stayed in touch with them for the next year. Sent them articles that I thought they would find interesting 'cause I was reading five newspapers a day and several magazines and then I started to be invited to parties at Eddie's house. If he was shooting a movie, I'd be invited to the movie set and it just unfolded. I knew they weren't reading everything I was reading and then one day I went to a function that I didn't want to go to, dragged myself out of the bed to go and I get there and this woman who's kind of nosey 'cause I was like the only black person there and she wanted to know why I was there. We started talking and I realize that we had spoken on the phone before and she casually mentions oh I heard Eddie Murphy is looking for a PR [Public Relations] person. It was the third time I had heard it and I knew at that moment that I was supposed to represent Eddie. I got a little bit nervous 'cause I was like this is the third time I'm hearing it. I know that somebody else is on this too. So I went home, wrote a letter to Eddie. I had the home address and the home number because I had been closely in touch with those guys. I sent a note to the home and to the office. I said Eddie we've seen each other from time to time but you don't really know who I am and what I can do, this is what I've been doing at Essence, these are people who can vouch for me and my work and I just said I'd like to represent you. I sent it off, called the house one day a month later to talk to one of the guys, Eddie heard I was on the phone and he said I got your package and I would love to have you represent me just like that. Then I started crying, I was like oh what am I going to do now. You've got to be careful what you ask for, I didn't have any money, I didn't know how to run a business and certainly had never represented anybody of that magnitude, and I was still at Essence. He was the number one box office draw in the world. So I just have a strong belief in God, I should be able to launch a business with Eddie Murphy as your first client. That was a sign from the creator that that was what I supposed to do and even though I didn't know how I was going to do it, I just knew I was supposed to, and that's how it started.