HONOLULU, HI – Entrepreneur, personality, and literacy proponent Wally “Famous” Amos will be the Grand Marshal for the 2009 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade to take place beginning at 9:00 am on Monday, January 19, 2009 through Waikiki in Honolulu, Hawaii. The long-time Kailua, Hawaii resident was born in Tallahassee, Florida and experienced a childhood that was not always stable and trouble free. At age 12, Wally moved to New York to live with his aunt Della who assumed a parental role. She was also the first person to bake him chocolate chip cookies. Although the home was of modest means, it was abundant in the meaningful qualities that give a child principles and a “can-do” attitude.
After a four years in the US Air Force, Wally Amos began his early professional career in the stock room at Saks Fifth Avenue. He worked hard but was consistently underpaid. He asked for raises but was denied. Not having another job in place, but believing he was worth more, Amos left the stock room ready for the next thing. That turned out to be the entertainment industry. Just like at Saks, he started at the bottom – but this time it was the mailroom at the William Morris Talent Agency. And just like before, Amos worked hard and at William Morris it paid off. Wally Amos rose from mailroom clerk to agent in one year – their first African-American agent. He prided himself on his ability to find the next new thing. He was the first to book many of the top performers of that era including The Supremes, Simon & Garfunkle, and Marvin Gaye. When he felt he’d gone as far as he could with William Morris, he formed his own theatrical management agency. Packing up his young family, he moved to the west coast.
There were ups and downs but Amos always stuck to his principles: work hard, be positive, and don’t look back. It was during this time that Wally learned to unwind on weekends by taking up a new hobby – baking chocolate chip cookies. Baking relaxed him and made him reminisce about his Aunt Della’s cookies.
Over the years, the entertainment industry began to wear on Amos. Show biz personalities weren’t always the easiest people to deal with, and it was time for a change. In 1975, long before there were “food personalities” like Emeril Lagasse, Paul Newman, and Nigella Lawsohn, Amos came up with the idea that he could sell his cookies as an entertainment personality – a gourmet chocolate chip cookie. Borrowing US$25,000 from friends, Amos opened the first freestanding store on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, CA that sold only cookies: The Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookie store. Soon the entrepreneur became a national personality renowned not only for his cookies but for his ebullient and outgoing persona as well. In 1985, a series of events began that led the company to change hands. It is now owned by the Kellogg Company. Amos eventually returned to baked goods through Uncle Wally’s Muffin Company.
Asserting that being famous only meant that lots of people knew who he was; Wally Amos always wanted to use his wide recognition as a means to draw attention to an important cause. That cause became literacy. Wally dedicated his efforts to Literacy Volunteers of America where he served as their National Spokesperson from 1979 to 2002. As a literary advocate, Wally uses his well-known name to support educational causes and serves on the Read to Me International and the Leadership Council of Communities in Schools, in addition to many others. In 2005, Wally Amos and his wife, Christine, founded the Read it LOUD Foundation, a publicly supported 501(c) (3) organization, to promote reading aloud to children.
Amos is the recipient of many honors and awards including the President’s Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence, the Horatio Alger Award, and the National Literacy Honors Award. He has been inducted into the Babson College Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs.
Wally Amos is a well-known, inspirational speaker and is the author of eight books – The Famous Amos Story: The Face That Launched a Thousand Chips, The Power in You: Ten Secret Ingredients To Inner Strength, Man With No Name: Turn Lemons Into Lemonade, Watermelon Magic: Seeds of Wisdom, Slices of Life, The Cookie Never Crumbles: Inspirational Recipes for Every Day Living, Be Positive!: Insights Into How To Live A Joy-filled and Inspiring Life, The Power In Self-Esteem: How To Discover And Fulfill Your Life Dream, Live An Inspiring Life: Ten Secret Ingredients for Inner Strength, and The Road To Success Is Paved with Positive Thinking.
Once again Amos is in the kitchen baking cookies in the Chip & Cookie retail stores located on Oahu in the Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki and Kailua Town, Hawaii www.chipandcookie.com . For Amos it’s the next new thing.
Over the years, Wally Amos has acted in a number of network sitcoms and appeared on hundreds of interview shows, news programs, educational programs, and commercials. On the lecture circuit, he addresses audiences at corporations, industry associations, and universities with his inspiring “do it” positive attitude. Over 150 million Americans know Wally Amos. His fame is grounded in quality, substance, and a positive attitude, and we are proud to have him as our 2009 Grand Marshal.