Winrock International Selects First African American Board Chairman

Jude Kearney is an Arkansas native and former Clinton administration official.

Jude Kearney headshot

Winrock International, a United States-based national and international economic development organization, has elected Jude Kearney as Chairman of the Winrock International Board of Directors. Kearney is the managing partner of the Washington, D.C., office of ASAFO & Co. LLP and has served on Winrock’s board since February 2015.

“I’m excited to serve as chair of the Winrock International Board of Directors,” Kearney said. “I am proud of the work we are doing around the world to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity and sustain natural resources, and I am eager to support and further those efforts in my new leadership role.”

A native of Gould, Ark., Kearney is one of 19 children of sharecroppers Thomas James and Ethel Kearney. He earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a juris doctorate from Stanford Law School. His decision to practice law was inspired by his desire to create new possibilities, especially for those underserved and exposed to unfortunate circumstances, according to a press release.

“Not only is Jude an outstanding representative of Winrock because of his personal experience growing up in Arkansas and his professional experience working to develop emerging markets across the globe, Jude is also the first African American chair in our board’s history,” Winrock President and CEO Rodney Ferguson said.

Following his election, Kearney recounted how much he admired the organization’s namesake, former Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, during grade school. 

“He was a hero to many of us because of the things he did for the state at the time when it was most needed,” Kearney said, referencing Gov. Rockefeller’s contributions to civil rights.

Kearney is a former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Services Industries and Trade Finance, appointed by President Bill Clinton, and was chief advisor on African policies. Kearney is highly experienced in the energy, environmental, telecommunications, transportation and infrastructure sectors, with engagements in Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America, China and other Asian countries. 

Kearney has held several senior-level positions in some of the biggest international law firms in Washington, D.C., and New York, and lived and worked in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; Lagos, Nigeria; and Johannesburg, South Africa.

Additionally, he has participated in various trade and bilateral negotiations, including in regards to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and market access negotiations with Japan and China. Kearney’s areas of concentration include international project finance, trade policy, foreign markets, and mergers and acquisitions.