Celebrating Black History Month: Black Leadership on Telecom Company Boards

During the month of February, the United States celebrates the achievements of Black Americans by commemorating the central role of Black men and women in our shared history. As the association which represents the companies that make up the wireless infrastructure ecosystem, WIA takes special pride in celebrating Black History Month by recognizing and honoring the Black Americans whose brilliance, dedication, and sacrifice have been instrumental in pushing the telecommunications industry forward.  

While the word “history” indicates a reflection on the achievements of the past, the telecommunications industry is presently undergoing historic innovation and progress. Over the coming years, advancements from 5G technology will fundamentally transform the ways we live and conduct business. As this exciting chapter unfolds, Black History Month provides a special opportunity to celebrate Black leaders whose ongoing contributions are at the forefront of our industry’s innovation and progress.  

While there is no list long or detailed enough to properly commemorate the Black leaders moving our industry forward, we would like to celebrate a few for their ongoing contributions. Recognizing that telecommunications history is part of Black history, here are some inspiring leaders who are leaving their mark in this exciting chapter:

Teresa Clarke
Director – American Tower

Ms. Clarke is Chair of Africa.com LLC, a media holding company with an extensive array of platforms that reach a global audience interested in African business content and community. Previously, Ms. Clarke was the first African-American woman selected as Managing Director in the Investment Banking Division of Goldman Sachs & Co., where she led corporate finance and merger & acquisition transactions for corporate clients in the industrials and real estate sectors.

Ms. Clarke is a member of American Tower’s Board of Directors, and serves on the audit committee of American Tower , the leading global provider of wireless communications infrastructure. She is also a member of the board of directors, and serves on the audit committee of Arthur J. Gallagher , the global insurance brokerage with operations in 56 countries. She is the former board chair, and executive chair, of Australian fintech, Change Financial . She served on the board of Cim Finance , a financial services company, and on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa.

She is on the Leadership Council of Women Corporate Directors (New York) and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Africa Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch, and the West Africa Advisory Board of the Rhodes Scholarship.

Ari Q. Fitzgerald
Director – Crown Castle

Mr. Fitzgeraldwas appointed to the Crown Castle Board as a director in August 2002. Mr. Fitzgerald is currently a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Hogan Lovells US LLP, and the Leader of its Communications, Internet and Media Practice. At Hogan Lovells, Mr. Fitzgerald concentrates on wireless, international and Internet-related issues. Prior to joining Hogan Lovells, Mr. Fitzgerald was an attorney with the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) from 1997 to 2001. While at the FCC, he served for nearly three years as legal advisor to FCC Chairman William Kennard and later as Deputy Chief of the FCC’s International Bureau. Prior to joining the FCC, Mr. Fitzgerald was an attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as legal counsel to former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley. Prior to working for the U.S. Department of Justice, Mr. Fitzgerald worked as an attorney for the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. 1

Kenneth R. Frank
Director – American Tower

Mr. Frank has been a director and member of the American Tower Audit Committee since January 2021. Mr. Frank is a Partner at Banneker Partners, a private equity firm focused in the enterprise software sector. He served as the Chief Executive Officer of Turning Technologies, an education technology company, from June 2019 to September 2021, and has led other enterprise software and services companies, such as Kibo Software, as Chief Executive Officer, from January 2016 to December 2018, and Aptean Software, as Chief Operating Officer, from October 2011 to December 2015. Prior to that, Mr. Frank was a member of the Executive Committee and held a series of leadership positions at Alcatel-Lucent, between February 2005 and October 2012, including Global President of Solutions and Marketing, President of the Professional Services Division and Chief Technology Officer of Alcatel North America. During his tenure with Alcatel-Lucent, he was also responsible for the joint engagement with Reliance Industries in Mumbai, India. Mr. Frank previously held positions at AT&T Bell Laboratories, BellSouth Telecommunications and venture-backed communications startups, Broadband Office and Masergy Communications. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Orbcomm, Inc. and the Board of Councilors for the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. 2

Tammy K. Jones
Director – Crown Castle

Ms. Jones was appointed to the Crown Castle Board as a director effective November 2020. Ms. Jones is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Basis Investment Group, LLC (founded in 2009), a multi-strategy commercial real estate investment platform. Ms. Jones has over 25 years of commercial real estate investment and lending experience. From 2004 to 2009, Ms. Jones served as head of the fixed and floating rate Capital Markets Lending Division at CWCapital LLC, a U.S. debt investment platform). From 1997 to 2004, Ms. Jones served as Senior Vice President at Commercial Capital Initiatives, Inc., a commercial real estate company. Ms. Jones serves as Chair of MackCali Realty Corporation, as well as member of its ESG, Audit and Strategic Review Committees, and formerly served as Lead Independent Director since June 2020. From April 2016 to September 2017, Ms. Jones served on the board of directors of Monogram Residential Trust, Inc., formerly a public company. Ms. Jones serves as Chair of the Real Estate Executive Council and is also a member of The Executive Leadership Council. Ms. Jones formerly served as a Trustee of the Georgia State University Foundation. 3

William E. Kennard
Chairman – AT&T

William Kennard was appointed to serve as Chairman of the FCC in 1997 by President Bill Clinton. During his tenure, he shaped policies that created an explosion of new wireless phones and brought the Internet to a majority of American households.

President Barack Obama appointed him to serve as the United States Ambassador to the European Union in 2009. As Ambassador to the European Union, Mr. Kennard made reinvigorating the U.S.-EU economic relationship and eliminating regulatory barriers his top priorities.

As FCC Chairman, Mr. Kennard became well known for advocating for people at risk of being stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide. He implemented the FCC’s e-rate program, which brought the Internet to disadvantaged schools and libraries. Under his leadership, the FCC expanded access to communications technologies for people with disabilities, and increased telephone service to rural areas, especially to Native Americans living on tribal lands. He worked to create more ownership and employment opportunities for women and minorities in the communications sector.

He has received many honors and awards for his accomplishments, including honorary degrees from Howard University, Gallaudet University, and Long Island University, and awards from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the Easter Seals Foundation, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Before joining the Obama Administration, he was a Partner and Managing Director of The Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm, where he led investments in the telecommunications and media sectors. Upon returning to the U.S., after his service as an Ambassador, Mr. Kennard co-founded Astra Capital Management, a private equity firm based in Washington, DC.

He currently serves as Chairman of the board of directors of AT&T, Inc. He also serves on the boards of directors of Ford Motor Company and MetLife, Inc. He is a member of the board of trustees of Yale University.

Clarence Otis
Lead Director – Verizon

Mr. Otis is the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Darden Restaurants, Inc., the largest company-owned and operated full-service restaurant company in the world. He served as CEO of Darden Restaurants from 2004 to 2014 and as Chairman from 2005 to 2014. After joining Darden in 1995 as Vice President and Treasurer, Mr. Otis served in a number of positions of responsibility, including Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President, and President of Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill, a restaurant concept formerly owned and operated by Darden. Mr. Otis also served as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta from 2010 to 2015. He has served as a director of The Travelers Companies, Inc. since 2017 and VF Corporation since 2004. He has also been a director of 138 funds within the MFS Mutual Funds complex since 2017.

Mr. Otis provides the Board with valuable insight into consumer services, retail operations and financial oversight. His experience over his 20 years at Darden Restaurants provides him with critical perspectives on operations, strategy and management of a complex organization and a large-scale workforce, and his board service at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and The Travelers Companies provides extensive risk management expertise. 4

Rodney Slater
Director – Verizon

Mr. Slater has been a Partner at the law firm Squire Patton Boggs LLP, since 2001 practicing in the areas of transportation, infrastructure and public policy. Previously, Mr. Slater served as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation from 1997 to 2001 and as the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration from 1993 to 1997. Mr. Slater has served as a director of Kansas City Southern from 2001 to 2019 and Transurban Group from 2009 to 2018.
Mr. Slater has substantial regulatory and public policy experience at the federal and state levels. Mr. Slater provides the Board with valuable insights on public policy issues and leadership on matters involving multiple stakeholders. He also provides the Board with perspectives on strategic partnerships and legal issues. 5

Kevin A. Stephens
Director – Crown Castle

Mr. Stephens is a high achieving executive with a consistent record of executing high ROI enterprise expansion strategies and accretive M&A transactions in both fast growing start-ups and mature multi-billion dollar companies. Currently, he serves as an independent Board Director at Crown Castle International Corp. and an independent Board Director at Consumer Cellular, a privately held wireless service provider.

In his most recent executive role, Mr. Stephens was Executive Vice President & President, Business Services at Altice USA Inc., a Fortune 1000 internet service provider where he led the $1.4 billion business services division. Previously as President, Commercial & Advertising Operations at Suddenlink Communications, he oversaw all B2B customer segments. In earlier positions, Mr. Stephens held senior sales and marketing positions at Cox Communications, Choice One Communications, and Xerox Corporation.

Mr. Stephens is currently an advisor to Catalyst Investments, a member of the investment committee for Cultivation Capital, and in 2020 was an advisor to Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners (MSIP) for a $3.2B acquisition.

Samme L. Thompson
Director – American Tower

Mr. Thompson has been an American Tower Director since August 2005 and was appointed to the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee in May 2019. From May 2006 to May 2019, Mr. Thompson served on the Compensation Committee, and served as Chairperson of the Compensation Committee from May 2009 to May 2019. Mr. Thompson served as a Director of SpectraSite, Inc. from June 2004 until the American Tower merger with SpectraSite in August 2005. From 2002 to present, Mr. Thompson has served as the President of Telit Associates, Incorporated, a financial and strategic advisory firm. Mr. Thompson worked for Motorola, Inc. as Senior Vice President and Director, Strategy and Corporate Development from 1999 to 2002. Mr. Thompson also previously served as Director of Strategic Planning and Development with AT&T Information Systems, as Senior Vice President with Kidder, Peabody & Co. and as a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company. Mr. Thompson served on the Board of Directors of Spok Holdings, Inc., formerly USA Mobility, Inc, from November 2004 to July 2020. He is a Trustee for the University of Chicago’s Marine Biological Laboratory. 6

Mathew Thornton, III
Director – Crown Castle

Mr. Thornton was appointed to the Crown Castle Board effective November 2020. Mr. Thornton served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of FedEx Freight Corporation, a subsidiary of FedEx Corporation from May 2018 until his retirement in November 2019. Mr. Thornton joined FedEx Corporation in November 1978 and held various management positions with the company, including Senior Vice President, U.S. Operations of Federal Express Corporation, a subsidiary of FedEx, from September 2006 to May 2018, Senior Vice President – Air, Ground and Freight Services of FedEx Express from July 2004 to September 2006, and Vice President – Regional Operations (Central Region), FedEx Express from April 1998 to July 2004. Mr. Thornton serves on the board of directors of Sherwin Williams Company, a public company, and on the board of trustees of Nuveen funds, overseeing approximately 150 portfolios within the fund complex. Mr. Thornton is also a member of The Executive Leadership Council. 7

Coming soon a conversation with NTIA’S Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives, Director Scott Woods.

  1. https://www.crowncastle.com/investors/corporate-governance
  2. https://www.americantower.com/company/board-of-directors.html
  3. https://www.crowncastle.com/investors/corporate-governance
  4. https://www.verizon.com/about/investors/clarence-otis-jr-lead-director
  5. https://www.verizon.com/about/investors/rodney-e-slater
  6. https://www.americantower.com/company/board-of-directors.html
  7. https://www.crowncastle.com/investors/corporate-governance