As the 10 year anniversary of Perennial draws nigh, Founder and CEO Lamell McMorris is known by many as a trailblazer in the fields of government relations and sports management.
“Honestly, Lamell is one of the leaders in my world,” said Joe Briggs, Esq., Co-Founder and Director of Strategic Operations for IMPACT and Public Policy Council for the NFL Players Association. “In my world there’s sports and government, and many times you’ll see people try to be a giant in one or the other. Lamell is one of the few people who stands tall in both.”
McMorris is also known as a dynamic mover and shaker in the civil rights community, having supported the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Chicago Urban League, NAACP and National Action Network (NAN) throughout his career. “Mine has really been more about a faith journey,” McMorris told Politic365 in an exclusive interview. “This is all about ordered steps.”
Typically, as the only “kid at the table with adults,” McMorris felt his calling has always been about the duality between “engaging theology and public policy.” According to Jeff Johnson, Politic365′s Executive Editor and frequent MSNBC Contributor, McMorris was trained in the old school civil rights tradition and has a foot firmly planted in modern realities.
A graduate of Morehouse College and Princeton Theological Seminary, McMorris grew up in the era of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor, and had the opportunity to work with Martin Luther King, III, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Newark Mayor Sharpe James and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
At the age of twenty-seven McMorris was appointed by Martin Luther King, III as Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of SCLC. Upon leaving SCLC, McMorris knew his next endeavor would be entrepreneurial.
Recalling his transition from civil rights advocate to business owner, McMorris relayed the words of Rev. Jesse Jackson: the civil rights movement is like a symphony – it has four movements. “Jim Crow is over, slavery is over, segregation is over,” he said, “we’re now at the fourth stage of the movement, that’s access to capital, building wealth.”
And build wealth is what McMorris sought to do.
In 2002, the Chicago native relocated to Washington, DC from Atlanta, Georgia to start a government relations and consulting practice. At the time, Congress and the White House were Republican-led, and McMorris gained early insight into the unique dynamics of his new-found home.
“There are a couple of things you realize upon moving to DC,” he said, “everything is about history, monuments, things have been here forever.” Being new to the area McMorris decided to name his company Perennial to connect with the message of longevity and history inherent to the DC culture. With little more than a big dream, a Pennsylvania Avenue address at the Willard Hotel, and a high school intern as his only employee, McMorris launched Perennial Strategy Group.
Realizing he needed more than a pipe dream to make his business work, McMorris tapped John Milne, a Republican lobbyist, to help run the operation. In an instant, Perennial became a credible, bi-partisan government relations practice.
Roughly two years later, inspired by opportunities made manifest through McMorris’ service as a youth minister at Zion Hill Baptist Church and the ever vibrant Morehouse network, Perennial Law Group took shape to represent NBA referees and MLB umpires.
Thereafter, McMorris expanded his vision and transitioned from representing sports officials to representing professional athletes. Since the formation of Perennial Sports & Entertainment, McMorris and his team represent more than 40 players in the NFL, 10 players in the NBA, and have a growing presence in the MLB and in international leagues.
“This really is all about steps being ordered,” McMorris told Politic365. “It’s not like I could go to my drawer, pull out a business plan, and tell you this was going to happen.”
From his days of service on Chicago’s Local School Council Student Representative Coalition, during which time he worked with then-community organizer Barack Obama, to now, McMorris has experienced a full evolution of passion and purpose in his life. And mindful of the opportunities created for him, McMorris is determined to give back.
In May, Perennial launched its Youth Business Competition to encourage young people to be entrepreneurs. On June 23, as part of Perennial’s 10 year anniversary celebration, McMorris will award ten students from the DC-metro area with $1,000 each to grow their own business.
Reflecting on his business acumen, civic commitment, and tenure as a board member for Rainbow PUSH, NAN and the NAACP, McMorris is proud of the legacy he’s creating.
“I started out as a prodigy, worker, volunteer, and now I can come back as a donor and still be able to give back and support.
“This is not just by accident,” he said. “As an entrepreneur it all comes full circle.”