Rocky williform

Rocky Williform
File:R. Williform photo.jpg
Williform in 2009.
Born Rocky De Aire Williform
Jonesboro, Arkansas
Residence Atlanta, Georgia
Palo Alto, California
Nationality  United States
Alma mater Texas Southern University
Southern Methodist University
Occupation Chairman of American Media Holdings
Publisher of
Years active 2002- present
Known for Business interests in media, software, beverages, investments
Net worth Increase US$ 57 million (2013)[1][2]
Political party Democratic Party
Religion Christianity
Parents Jesse Williform Jr. (deceased)
Opal Kindall (deceased)
Relatives Nelson, Roderick, Nathaniel, Kelvin (brothers), Jessica, Mamie, Barbara (sisters)
Awards See Honors and Awards

Rocky De Aire Williform (/wɪlɑː.fɔərm/) is an American entrepreneur, investor, and political activist. He is the founder of, the micro-blogging network for hip-hop culture, where he also serves as its editor-in-chief and publisher. He is also the creator of the Hip-Hop Emblem.[3] Before he set out to become an entrepreneur, he was a New York investment banker participating in corporate takeovers. He subsequently became a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer with stints as a software engineer at IBM and NCD. He then co-founded U.S. beverage maker BodyBlocks Nutrition Systems and the StreetCred social network. His business interest has included investments, beverages, media, and software.

He has been publicly associated with former Maytag Corporation CEO Lloyd Ward, rapper, actor T.I., and five-time Olympic gold medalist, sprinter Michael Johnson. Ward was a one-time business partner and Johnson and T.I. each served as celebrity spokesman for his beverage company and social network respectively.

Early life and education

Williform was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas to Jesse Williform Jr. and Opal Kindall and was raised by his mother as the fifth of eight children in public housing just north of Houston, Texas. He never had a good relationship with his father. He and his brother would help to make ends meet as preteens by working odd jobs and in their teenage years spent summers working on construction sites. He at one point learned to make fiberglass speed boats. Helping to raise the family became much more of a priority over school so much so that he learned he was far behind on his studies, and as a senior he had the credits of a sophomore. So on his 18th birthday he casually walked into the counselors office and requested to withdraw from school. He tells this story during a California speech how the counselor responded sternly saying "you're quitting school!" He responded "I'm not quitting, I'm withdrawing and am going to college." The counselor responded, "withdrawing and quitting are the same". He withdrew on that day and never returns. He obtained his GED and with plans to become an attorney attended Texas Southern University, where as a member of SGA, he served as chief justice of the student court, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.[4] He has since been listed by U.S. News & World Report as one of the university's notable alumni.[5] He later studied at Southern Methodist University School of Engineering.

During college he had made a name for himself as a politically and socially conscious leader working as a political activist and a Texas democratic political fundraiser. He would meet a Federal Reserve Board member who would become his mentor and encourage him to get into investment banking. This encounter led him to set aside his plan to enter law school after college, relocate to New York City, and become an investment banker participating in corporate takeovers.[4]

Business ventures

Microblogging site

In 2009 Williform founded, the micro-blogging network for hip-hop culture. The network is dedicated to the ever changing state of the hip-hop culture. It publishes daily news, gossip, columns, reviews, music, videos, and daily deals. The patent-pending FrontPage and Mini Feed features allow members to share and syndicate the sites content around the Web.[6] With traffic originating from more than 180 countries and territories, it has grown to become one of the most visited urban networks and ranks in the top 10 percent of visited websites worldwide.

Social network

Main article: StreetCred

In 2007 Williform started StreetCred, the social network for hip-hop culture, with rapper/actor Clifford "T.I." Harris. With T.I.'s endorsement and launch of the site on BET's hit 106 & Park television show the website gained instant popularity worldwide.[7] Later that year, T.I. released his official video statement on StreetCred following his arrest on weapons charges.[8]

In addition, the website is mentioned in the lyrics of two tracks on the multi-platinum selling Paper Trail album: track No. 4, "On Top of the World"[9] and track No. 12, "Every Chance I Get".[10] Also, in 2008, the first single, No Matter What, to the Paper Trail album, was released by Williform on StreetCred.[11] Williform is also listed in the "credits" on both the Paper Trail and T.I. vs T.I.P. albums.

Williform also secured content syndication agreements with three of the four major music distribution companies---Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony BMG and acquired rights to mobile short code HIPHOP on mobile devices in North America.

The website was touted by other Hip-hop notables, including Diddy, Snoop, Young Jeezy, Lil' Kim, Nelly, Common and T-Pain and reached more than 1,000,000 monthly unique users.[12] As of December 2008 the website was no longer online.

Beverage company

In 2003 Williform co-founded BodyBlocks Nutrition Systems, Inc, the U.S. based beverage maker, with Lloyd D. Ward, the one time chairman and CEO of the $5 billion Maytag Corporation, former president of Frito-Lay and former Chief Executive Officer-Secretary General of the United States Olympic Committee.[13][14][15] The company was capitalized with an initial $3 million in startup and they raised a multi-million dollar round of Series A funding from New York private equity for further capitalization. Williform served as president, while Ward maintained the position of chairman and CEO. BodyBlocks specialized in making nutritional beverages; the initial marketing push was complete when 5-time Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Johnson signed on as celebrity endorser.[16]

In 2005 he and his partner then bid to acquire the $331 million Sara Lee Coffee & Tea Division during its divestiture, making an initial $99 million cash offer. While they survived all the way to the final round of bidding as one of only two companies still standing, after adjusting the EBITDA and reducing their bid to $78 million, they were out bid slightly by Italy based Segafredo Zanetti.[17]

Williform and his partner would then set their sight on the world's fastest growing economy, China. They attempted to take control of China's second largest fruit & vegetable juice company, offering 300 million RMB. This bid was unsuccessful, but the company would later successfully take control of China's largest organic dairy and transition to its name.[18] Williform sold his stake in the company in 2006.

Political and civic activism

HISD security

Williform launched a campaign lobbying the Houston Independent School District (HSID) for the use of metal detectors in its schools to combat violence following the hunting knife fatal stabbing of a male by a female student in the classroom of Evan Edward Worthing High School. He emphasized to school officials, "Our goal is not to catch students with weapons in school, but it is to deter students from bringing weapons onto school campuses." He galvanized community groups and garnered the endorsement of teachers and police unions.[19][20][21][22]

As a result of the high-profile campaign and against the superintendent's recommendation, the board approved a $1.5 million security plan, which included the use of metal detectors, changing the name of the security department to the HISD Police Department and authorizing its officers to carry guns and wear uniforms on high school and middle school campuses. Following the approval, Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, who had publicly endorsed the Williform proposal, said "For the first time in 15 years, they have made a serious commitment to provide us a safe environment."[23]

Term limitations

Williform was the first to announce a campaign to limit the number of terms that all Houston city-elected officials could serve in office. Calling a news conference on the steps of Houston City Hall, he announced his proposal to place a limit of "three-two year" terms for the office of mayor, city controller and city council, saying ..."The increased concentration of political power in incumbents means less free and competitive elections." Then mayor, Kathy Whitmire told the media that she could support Williform's proposed measure. Shortly thereafter Clymer Wright, republican activist and former Texas finance chairman of Ronald Reagan's successful 1980 presidential campaign, announced his group's proposal of "two-two year" terms and stated that Williform had joined his efforts. Moments later Williform emphatically said he opposes Wright's group "because his efforts are anti-Whitmire."[24][25][26]

Voters would eventually approve a three-two year measure with 56.9 percent of the vote. In 2010 Houston mayor Bill White who was locked out of reelection due to the limits, appointed a 21 member commission to study term limits. He was subsequently termed out of office and Annise Parker was elected the 61st mayor of Houston.[27]

Williform was also appointed by Robert Mosbacher to the board of directors of Texans for Term Limitations, a statewide term limit effort, co-chaired by Mosbacher and Enron founder Kenneth Lay. However, to strengthen his case even more for term limits, he teamed with Lionel Castillo, former Houston city controller and one-time cabinet member in the Jimmy Carter administration, to co-author a term limit op-ed for the Houston Chronicle. The op-ed stated among other things, "Our forefathers envisioned a system of representative government based on fair, free and competitive elections. An entrenched incumbency has made it less free, less fair and less representative."[28][29]

Fat Tuesday's boycott

Williform waged a boycott against the New Orleans based Fat Tuesday's restaurant chain. The establishment had been accused of discrimination by several prominent African American patrons who frequented the club on Thursdays, a night that by reputed word of mouth had a high concentration of African Americans. Following the arrest of a Houston Rockets basketball player at the establishment, Williform filed suit with the Civil Rights Division of U.S. Department of Justice citing civil rights violations accusing Fat Tuesday's of using a "system of discouragement" to carry out discriminatory practices. Some of the practices alleged were, holding long lines, charging a cover, encouraging police harassment by using mounted police and a police helicopter, closing early and playing country music, only on Thursday nights when the establishment had a high concentration of African Americans. He then emerged to a prearranged news conference at FBI headquarters in Houston, Texas and called on Houstonians to boycott the chain. It became the leading local evening news story and Fat Tuesday's corporate executives quickly responded by calling the allegations "ridiculous." Williform increased pressure by making rounds on the morning radio talk show circuit and even discussed launching a billboard campaign across the city highlighting the practices. This would force Fat Tuesday's to negotiate through Justice Department mediation. During negotiations Fat Tuesday's agreed to several concessions, which included reinvesting in the community. Fat Tuesday's spokesman Joe Pando said, "In the future club staff will seek to avoid giving even an "impression" of prejudice." Six months later Fox News would report that Fat Tuesday's executives finally admitted that their business had been hurt tremendously by the boycott, that blacks and whites had stopped patronizing the establishment. Three months later Fat Tuesday's-Houston closed its doors.[30][31][32]

HISD superintendent selection

Williform had a voice in both the fate of HISD superintendent Joan Raymond's tenure and the selection of the 19th superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, the seventh largest in the nation. Raymond, who had opposed Williform's efforts for metal detectors in Houston schools, was up for renewal of her contract as superintendent. Williform vehemently opposed the contract's renewal, reportedly speaking on behalf of Houston's black leadership telling the Houston Chronicle, "The general consensus among black community leaders is she must go." "Black community leaders feel she does not possess the leadership necessary to lead us into the 21st century." Shortly thereafter, the HISD board would conduct a $400,000 buyout of Raymond's contract plus $25,000 for moving expenses.[33]

The HISD board then launched a national search seeking a new superintendent to lead the district. The search became at times controversial and racially sensitive, with some Hispanic leaders demanding a Hispanic be the district's next superintendent. However. Williform, in an apparent effort to bring Blacks and Hispanics together, took a more conciliatory approach telling the Houston Chronicle "I believe the black community will be willing to support a Hispanic candidate for the good of both minority communities." If we join together we can be much more effective." The district would hire Frank Petruzielo as its 19th superintendent.[34]

Opinions and editorials

Mayoral endorsement

Williform was high profile in the Houston mayoral race, the nations forth largest, pitting Texas State Representative Sylvester Turner against Houston land developer Bob Lanier. Turner and Lanier eliminated longtime incumbent Kathy Whitmire in an open primary and went into a heated run off battle. Turner was vying to become Houston's first black mayor and Lanier, a wealthy land developer and former chairman of the Houston Metro Transit Authority, was seeking to bring business experience to city government. Williform endorsed Lanier over Turner and on the evening of the open primary election introduced Lanier as Houston's next mayor.[35]

During the run off election he penned an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle publicly solidifying his support for Lanier as mayor. The op-ed titled "Black White Debate Mayoral Race" was presented as an open debate between Rocky Williform and Robert S. Lemer, a retired partner of international accounting firm Ernst & Young and member of the Greater Houston Partnership. Williform supported Lanier and Lemer supported Turner. Williform highlighted the leadership he believed Lanier would bring to city hall, if elected, saying "Bob Lanier has the record that proves he is the leadership we need today." "His record speaks for itself, but his proposals to improve the quality of life in Houston are what really matter." He further stated, "This election presents a unique opportunity...for us to break with failed policies of the past and join hands to build a brighter future."[35]

Bob Lanier would go on to win the election with 53% of the vote and be inaugurated as the 58th mayor of Houston serving three-two year terms until he was term limited out of office. Having had some of the highest approval ratings in Houston's recorded history, he would be affectionately called "Uncle Bob".[35]

Limiting political terms

Williform co-authored an op-ed for the Houston Post titled "Limiting Political Terms Actually Helps Minorities". He teamed with Leonel Castillo, the 5th U.S. Immigration Commissioner under president Jimmy Carter, in an attempt to make his case for term limits to African American and Hispanic voters. The Wall Street Journal editorial board would go on to single-out Williform in its Term Warfare editorial published that same year, saying "Polls show large majorities in every demographic group think that term limits would limit the baleful influence of professional politicians and inject new blood and competition into the system."... "Rocky Williform is leading a term limit-movement in his city." .[36][37]

Williform and Castillo challenged the electorate to "return the power to the people by opening the process to new leaders with new ideas." Stating in the op-ed that, "Too often idealistic new leaders quickly become jaded career politicians who spend so much time protecting their pasts that they have little energy to devote to the future." They further wrote, "Our government should be comprised of citizen legislators - school teachers, small business people, engineers, artists, homemakers of all ethnic origins. We want leaders who will serve and return to live in their communities under the laws they create."[36][37]

They attempted to further make their case saying, "Term limits will level the playing field for minorities. As current politicians are rotated out of office, young minorities will have the chance to serve and or move up."[36][37]

The Hip-Hop emblem

Williform created The Hip-Hop Emblem in 2009 to serve as the universal connecting point for everything Hip Hop. The description for the emblem is as follows:
The Hip-Hop Emblem Embodies the Spirit of Hip-Hop:[38][39][40]

  • Its double H symbolizes Hip-Hop.
  • Its multiple colors symbolize Hip-Hop's Multi-Culture.
  • Its numerous cracks symbolize Hip-Hop's History.
  • Its glow symbolizes Hip-Hop's Energy.

The emblem is used to signify hip hop everything from social profiles and music covers to websites and store fronts, but is prohibited from being marketed or sold as a standalone product or service without explicit written authorization.

Honors and awards


Year Association Award Category Nominee Result Source
2012 Texas Southern University President's Medal Notable Alumni Rocky Williform Won [41]
2010 Visual Effects Society Awards 2010 Visual Effects Award Go Getta of the Year Rocky Williform
(Rocky Williform Company)
Won [42]
2002 United Negro College Fund Meritorious Service Award Education Fund Raising Rocky Williform Won [4]


Willform was named one of Texas Southern University's Legends & Leaders in 2012.[43]


Rocky Williform, was interviewed by on Tuesday, October 2, 2007.[44]


External links

  • About Rocky Williform by Atlanta Daybook
  • About Rocky Williform by News Certified Exchange
  • About Rocky Williform by Hip Hop Blog
  • Rocky Williform's Profile by Zoom Info Directory
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