Brownwood residents who think they are seeing a familiar face on commercials and print advertisements for a financial institution are not mistaken. That’s Brownwood native Ramona Houston, Ph.D., who’s featured in a national marketing campaign for Wachovia Bank.
“I attended a one-day financial seminar targeted for women that covered subjects like budgeting, retirement and home buying,” Houston said last week. “Wachovia was trying to reach different markets, and the seminar was held in partnership with Women in the NAACP. I was in the market for a home.”
Houston got her home, and she also started a retirement program.
The experience prompted Houston to write thank-you letters to several Wachovia representatives to express her gratitude for the information and assistance.
“It actually changed my life,” Houston said. “I learned so much and gained even more.”
Meanwhile, Wachovia was developing the idea of using its customers in an advertising campaign. Houston was selected as a face and bank advocate to be featured.
The bank asked Houston, who was then a professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga., if she would be willing to appear in the advertisements.
The commercial and print advertisements tell how the bank helped Houston purchase her first home, in Atlanta, and develop a retirement plan. The commercial also features Houston’s maternal grandmother, Izora Jones of Fort Worth. What started out as a television commercial evolved into a print ad that has been featured in national magazines like “O,” “Black Enterprise,” “Pink,” “House Beautiful” and “Essence.”
The commercial was shot in two different locations that recreated her attending the seminar and her life after it, with locations at the Georgian Terrace and the College Park Woman’s Club. The ad was produced by the African-American agency Images USA.
Houston sees her appearance in the marketing campaign as a way to educate others about real-life concerns.
“Through this commercial, I now have the power to educate others about financial responsibility and reaching their financial goals,” she said.
Houston, a 1987 graduate of Brownwood High School, is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and earned her doctorate in history at the University of Texas, where she did work on race relations and civil rights. She taught five years at Morehouse College in Atlanta, but recently left her professor’s duties to concentrate on a research project and to serve on numerous boards in the metropolitan Atlanta community.
Her current project is working on research of race relations as they affect not only whites and African-Americans, but also Latin-Americans.
“In Georgia, immigration has become a big issue,” Houston said. “It’s extremely complex within the various communities. Each has different concerns, and what they are thinking is not always the same. I’m a member of a national Latino organization, and you can see how complex it is.”
The tri-racial community focuses on the civil rights movements in the years from World War II to 1956.
“Some people may think the civil rights movement didn’t start here until 1956, but a lot of things were happening before,” Houston said. Among them was the world war that, despite segregation, brought people of different cultures together in a way that would not have happened otherwise.
Houston is also busy with speaking engagements and a number of community boards on which she serves.
“I go to a bunch of meetings,” Houston said. “There are so many boards.” One of those is serving on an advisory panel to a Fulton County commissioner that is working on economic development, service strategies and policy plans for the southern part of the county. She is also president of the nonprofit youth development organization “Light Forces.”
She is also active in the alumni association of her college.
“I wanted to get back to Brownwood for our high school reunion,” Houston said. “It was our 20th this year, but things were just too busy to get away.”
Houston still makes visits to Brownwood as often as she can. She has deep roots in Brown County — her father is Cecil Houston, and her paternal grandfather was Brownwood’s first black city councilman, Bennie Houston. Adelia Kirk of Brownwood is her aunt.
“I have fond memories of growing up in Brownwood,” Houston said. “I attended Northwest Elementary and Brownwood High. I’m always proud to tell people I’m from Brownwood, Texas.”