Bunnie Jackson-Ransom is the President and CEO of firstClass, Inc. – a full-service public relations and marketing firm founded in 1975. She has been the driving force behind firstClass for the past 39 years–conceptualizing the company, working with clients and implementing its programs.
Ms. Jackson-Ransom has a diverse business background, extensive administrative experience and organizational know-how, and a dedicated commitment to community involvement. Educated in the public schools of North Carolina, she received a Bachelor of Science in Business from North Carolina College and a Master of Science in Business from North Carolina Central University. Graduating magna-cum-laude, she worked her way through college; and it is that same attitude that has propelled her and firstClass into prominence. More recently, she was presented with an honorary Ph.D. degree from Morris Brown College in Atlanta.
The professional and volunteer service career of Bunnie Jackson-Ransom spans some forty-five years. During this period, she has effectively been a college professor at Bennett College (Greensboro, N C) and at Georgia State University in Atlanta, a governmental agency official at Economic Opportunity Atlanta, a business owner and mentor to many young women who aimed to follow in her footsteps. In her current business at firstClass, Inc., she has worked on accounts ranging from sausages to shoes and patients to politicians; she has worked with clients as large as Waste Management, Inc. to the sole entrepreneur whose business is just as important and twice the challenge. Clients she has worked with are too numerous to list; however, a few include The National Conference of Black Mayors (29 years), Waste Management, Inc. (14 years), Burger King Corporation (12 years) and the Trumpet Awards (10 years). More recently, clients at firstClass, Inc. include The King Center, American Traffic Solutions, Jackmont Hospitality, Inc., Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church, and Edmond, Lindsay & Hoffler, LLC. Ms. Jackson-Ransom has developed an unblemished reputation in the field of public relations and media relations; and she has excelled in community relations/public engagement, as a marketing tool, with extensive experience in working with urban community leaders. She is responsible for designing and implementing many on-going community action projects for her clients, working to include the goals of the urban community that benefit and enhance the lives of the least fortunate. Some of these efforts included funding for the NAACP’s Saturday morning SAT classes; the Back to School program for children living in public housing; Stay-in-School programs for Dean Rusk Elementary School and Oglethorpe Elementary School; mentoring for the culinary students at Booker T. Washington High; Project Re-Direction and Project “Dreaming Out Loud” at Antioch Urban Ministries, to name a few. During her career in media relations – getting her clients in the news or keeping them out depending on the situations – she acquired the title as the Atlanta PR Guru. She has a dedication to the Black press; and she subscribed to, and read, just about every African American newspaper ever published in the USA during her more than 40 years at the head of First Class, Inc.
While serving as President and owner of firstClass, Ms. Jackson-Ransom responded to a request to manage the careers of several performing artists; and from 1978 through 1988, she was the Chief Administrative Officer of a conglomerate company under the umbrella of Atlanta Artists. She began her career in the music industry after she had already distinguished herself as a business woman in the areas of education, government and public relations. As President of Atlanta Artists Management, she was also responsible for the daily activities of Atlanta Artist Productions and Atlanta Artists Records, and managed the recording career of acts such as CAMEO and Larry Blackmon and The SOS Band. Ms. Jackson-Ransom managed multi-million-dollar record sales, toured the world with performances and promotions, negotiated production deals for her artists and carried these recording artists to gold and platinum record status. This success, however, did not satisfy her thirst for serving her fellowman; therefore, she made time to teach a course in “Artist Representation” at Georgia State University in order to give local Atlanta artists the benefit of her knowledge and experience in the music industry. Many talented persons have had their contracts reviewed and demo tapes critiqued by Bunnie Jackson-Ransom when there was no other place to go.
There has always been a calling on Ms. Jackson-Ransom to get involved and to do something to make a difference. When the sit-ins occurred in Greensboro, NC, the students at North Carolina College in Durham (where Jackson-Ransom was a student) were anxious to do the same. Bunnie was in the first group of students from NCC to participate – working through CORE in 1960-61 with Floyd McKissick. From her activism while a student, to her first real job at Bennett College where she taught evening remedial shorthand and typing to business education students, in addition to her regular classroom teaching load; to her role as administrative assistant with the first anti-poverty program (The North Carolina Fund), where she learned about community organization and wrote grant proposals for communities. Giving back to communities was an ingrained lifestyle.
When she moved to Atlanta, in 1965, she immediately joined the local chapter of the NAACP and had been active ever since. Ms. Jackson-Ransom continued with her career in community services at Atlanta’s anti-poverty agency, Economic Opportunity Atlanta. Her job included going into different urban neighborhoods, working with neighborhood leaders who were associated with the individual Neighborhood Service Centers, listening to expressed needs of residents, and writing grants and proposals to secure funding. She was responsible for successful grants which were funded and resulted in the many community programs throughout Atlanta including Atlanta Legal Aid, Head Start, the Southside Comprehensive Health Center, Sickle Cell projects and many more.
From 1970 through 1976 (and as the first lady of the city) she was involved in several programs, as a volunteer, in the area of the arts. She was responsible for the return of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater to the stage in Atlanta. Through her volunteer work with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Dance Atlanta in the early 70’s, she met Alvin Ailey and asked him to come to Atlanta-and he came. She single-handled brought the first major African American art exhibition (art created by a Black artist) to the High Museum by talking the director of the museum into letting her hang an exhibition by Ernie Barnes in the galleria (the lobby) of symphony hall because they didn’t want to hang the art of this black artist in the official museum art gallery. Without any funding from the museum, she raised funds to create a catalogue of Barnes’ art; had the art crated, shipped, insured, and hung the art in the galleria; hired security and staff to show the art; hosted a reception; donated prints to the boys and girls clubs; and sold enough art to pay for the exhibition. Because of the success of this exhibition, the High Museum invited other Black artists – including Bennie Andrews and Romae Bearden – to exhibit. She served on the board of directors of the Atlanta Symphony and tried to talk the symphony into inviting Gladys Knight and the Pips to perform with the symphony. This later became a reality.
It was this community development training and experience that caused her to include community relations into her marketing techniques when she opened First Class, Inc. She often says, “What better way to show people that you have built a better burger than to go into their neighborhoods and give them one (burger).”
Ms. Jackson-Ransom has received numerous awards and honors, including being listed in Who’s Who in American Women, Who’s Who in Georgia, and Who’s Who in Black America from 1981 to the present; she was also named Who’s Who in Atlanta by the Atlanta Business Chronicle in 1992. She was presented with the Bronze Jubilee Public Awards in 1984; “America’s Top 100 Black Business and Professional Women” by Dollars and Sense Magazine in 1985; and the Black Journalist Awards in Community Relations and Event Planning for 1992 and Public Relations for 1993. She was named among the list of “Women of Influence” by the Atlanta Business League in 1997 through 2008; and received the Millennium Pacesetter Award from this organization in 2003. She has been cited for community service by the West Hunter Street Baptist Church; the Atlanta Public Schools; the U. S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons; University John-Hope Homes; The Concerned Black Clergy of Atlanta, and received the Ground Crew Award in community service from SCLC in January, 2008. Most recently, she received “Woman of the Year” award from the National Association of Professional Women 2012/2013.
Ms. Jackson-Ransom is a member of the National Council of Negro Women; Atlanta Association of Black Journalists; the Atlanta Branch of the NAACP; the Azalea Chapter of The Links, Inc.; the Metropolitan Atlanta Coalition of 100 Black Women. She is a former president of the Atlanta Chapter of Jack & Jill, a former member of the Board of Directors of the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, a former member of the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Business League; and an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority where she served as past local chapter president and past chairman of the National Projects Committee. She is a past president of the Metropolitan Atlanta Coalition of 100 Black Women, and a past Chairperson of the Georgia Human Relations Commission. She was the organizer of the Cascade Heights branch of the League of Women Voters, and remains politically active in her community and the City of Atlanta. In the early 1970’s she served the City of Atlanta as its first Black “First Lady” during her marriage to the late Mayor Maynard Jackson.
In the fall of 2010, Ms. Jackson-Ransom put her unique combination of public relations and marketing knowledge, her vigorous professional skill, and her 36 years of experience into a book entitled Getting the Word Out: How to Market Your Ministry. Published by The Interdenominational Theological Center, this 100 plus page book was created to provide a few “best practices” to help ministers, pastors and lay leaders to spread the gospel of deliverance in the 21st century. Recognizing the many changes in the marketing/communications world, the second edition of Getting The Word Out: How to Market Your Ministry, published in 2014, includes four new chapters and is already in demand from those who utilized the first edition.
Bunnie Jackson-Ransom is the proud mother of three daughters, Beth Jackson Hodges, Brooke Jackson Edmond, and Rae Yvonne Ransom; and the mother of one son, Maynard H. Jackson III. More recently, she is the grandmother of Isabella Daisy Jackson, Luke Benjamin Jackson, Hayes Jackson Edmond, Brooke Lee Irene Edmond and Cassandra Elizabeth Edmond. She is an active member of the Cascade United Methodist Church.
Brion E. Craig is the IT staff consultant, Social Media Manager and provides client support for First Class; and has been in this position for more than twenty (20) years.
With over 25 years of IT experience, Brion Craig has developed a sharp eye for staying abreast of the current IT trends. He has built his own successful consulting business, and maintains the knowledge and expertise to help business owners stay on top of their IT and business needs.
Over the years, Craig’s clients range from corporate clients to small home based business owners. His vast knowledge in the IT arena, ranges from web development and promotion, social media management, network administration and client support. This ensures his clients have one source for all their IT needs.
Brion was educated at New York City College of Technology and continues his education with the latest in IT and Social Media on a consistent basis.
Carmen “Nomsa” Hampton is the Administrative Coordinator at First Class, Inc. She is the administrator of business affairs, manages the office, and coordinates client support.
Ms. Hampton manages public relations and media relations. She is responsible for drafting content for media advisories, press releases, media pitches, and advertorials. In addition, she serves as the account manager for the firm’s major accounts and is responsible for maintaining client outreach-databases, and building community/stakeholder relations. She is the day-to-day contact for clients and assists with client development with regard to Federal, county, city and other municipal contacts.
Carmen joined the staff of First Class, Inc. in 2012. In addition to being an active member of the Southwest Atlanta Community, she serves as the coordinator of the Voter Education Initiative through her church, The Shrine of the Black Madonna, and has successfully organized educational programs and voter registration drives throughout the year. She is passionate about civic engagement. Her skills and talents extend into her community by building successful partnerships and implementing initiatives to better serve her community.
A proud native of Detroit, The Motor City, Carmen grew up in Ypsilanti, MI and matriculated from Ypsilanti High School. After attending Morris Brown College, in Atlanta, she returned to Detroit and started a family. Carmen migrated back to the south in 2000 and made Atlanta her home. Carmen pursued and received her degree in communications while employed at First Class. She is a mother to three daughters and enjoys reading, writing and down time with her family.
Wendy Eley Jackson joins the First Class, Inc. team with a wealth of knowledge in client development and marketing experience in the area of business strategy and account management. In addition, she brings over 25 years of television broadcasting and film production experience to help navigate the intersection of creative minds with media, branding and marketing technology.
Ms. Eley Jackson is a native Atlantan and understands the critical market that is the specialty of First Class, Inc. In her role of Manager of Special Accounts, she is responsible for unraveling the massive arena of Federal, state, county, and local programs available for DBA, WOB, and small business. More importantly, she will offer the base clients of First Class her knowledge of film production for smaller projects including film, social media, and advertising.
A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with a B.A. in English Literature, and a 2019 M.F.A. candidate in screenwriting from the University of Georgia, Eley Jackson’s vast experience in the film and television industry spans from SONY Pictures Television, where she developed made-for-television movies; advertising and marketing with Turner Broadcasting and developed TV pilots for major studios and networks. Most recently, she’s received the prestigious Producers Guild Mark (p.g.a) for her production work on the critically acclaimed and award winning feature length documentary, MAYNARD, directed by 2x Academy Award Nominee and 6 Primetime Emmy Winner, Sam Pollard.
Wendy’s success with synchronizing brand marketing with media generates ideas that builds businesses, inspires creativity, and permeates her vision and work. She is also the founder and director of her own agency, Auburn Avenue Films, from which she has become a “go to” curator for content creation developed out of Georgia into Hollywood for motion picture, television, and digital media platforms.
Maynard Holbrook Jackson III is the Director of Community Relations for firstClass, Inc. He is responsible for the public engagement programs executed for many of our clients, and works to maintain the image and the brand of the agency within the communities where we do business. He is actively involved in creating and maintaining relationships with political, religious, educational, civic and business leaders and the organizations they represent. He is also engaged working specifically with the American Voters League and board development for this organization.
Before coming to firstClass, Inc. Maynard was the Executive Assistant to Mayor Maynard Jackson, in the American Voters League (AVL) in 2002. He assisted Mayor Jackson in the creation of the AVL, street-marketing for the program, building the ministerial alliance and accompanying Mayor Jackson in various fund-raising and promotion activities for the AVL. Jackson is also a musician and has played drums in several Atlanta churches and with musical groups of several difference genres including rock, jazz, gospel, reggae and R&B. Maynard left his native Atlanta in 2004 and moved to Los Angeles for several years where he worked as a musician performing in several venues in Hollywood and the greater Los Angeles area.
Community service comes naturally to Jackson. He is involved in several community initiatives in Atlanta including the Voter Empowerment Collaborative, Concerned Black Clergy, and Future Voters of American. He teaches drum lessons whenever possible to various student groups.
Jackson is a graduate of Northside High School in Atlanta and has attended Georgia State University, the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, and the Sound Audio Engineer Institute in Atlanta.
Maynard Jackson III is the father of one daughter and one son, and is married to Wendy Eley Jackson. Known throughout the city as “Buz” by his personal friends, he enjoys playing tennis, playing drums, and political campaigns. Most of all he says, “I enjoy exploring the neighborhoods of Atlanta-a process I picked up with my father when he would take me with him as he drove through Atlanta looking for pot-holes in the street and talking to folks in the communities.”