39th Annual MLK Celebration Keynote
Paula Williams Madison
Chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles Sparks, a professional team of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA)
Television executive and journalist Paula Williams Madison is Chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles Sparks, a professional team of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).
Born to Jamaican parents in Harlem, New York, Madison earned a BA from Vassar College in 1974. She went on to study communications at Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communication and work as a reporter at the Syracuse Herald Journal.
Madison spent her early career as a newspaper reporter in New York and Texas, and as a television news manager and executive in Dallas, Tulsa and Houston. After working as assistant news director at NBC4 in New York, she became the station’s vice president and news director in 1996. Shortly after, she took on a second role as senior vice president of diversity for NBC.
In 2000, Madison was promoted to president and general manager of KNBC, making her the first African-American woman to become a general manager of a top news network. She then stepped down from the diversity leadership role and, when NBC purchased Telemundo, a Spanish-language network, Madison also assumed responsibility for the newly acquired Telemundo stations in Los Angeles, California.
In 2007, Madison was appointed executive vice president and chief diversity officer of NBC Universal. The parent company, GE, named her a company officer and vice president. Madison’s family owned Williams Group Holdings LLC, which has significant investments in media (The Africa Channel), a sports franchise (the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks), and various real estate, consumer, financial and trading businesses.
In addition to being named chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles Sparks, she also became a member of the WNBA Board of Governors.
Madison is a board member of Greater Los Angeles United Way, a past chairman of the California Science Center Foundation, vice chair of National Medical Fellowships, the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, Cardinal Spellman High School, and chair of The Nell Williams Family Foundation. In 2013, Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed her a commissioner of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Madison has received many awards, including the Ida B. Wells award from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in 1998, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations in 1999, and the First Amendment Service Award from the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation in 2000. In 2005, Madison was named one of the “75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America” by Black Enterprise magazine and was included in the Hollywood Reporter’s “Power 100.” She received the NABJ Legacy Award in 2010, was named to Ebony magazine’s 2013 Power 100 List, and also received the Pinnacle Award from the Houston Association of Black Journalists.
Read more about Paula Madison at The HistoryMakers