The Famous Amos story : Air Force veteran and major cookie boss

Jonathan Kaupanger
February 21, 2018 - 1:59 pm

Photo by David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS/Sipa USA

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What do musicians Simon & Garfunkel, the Air Force and the Keebler Elves have in common?  If you guessed Airman 2nd Class Wallace “Wally” Amos then you are correct and you get a cookie,  a Famous Amos cookie to be exact.

Amos’ life seems a bit scattered at a first. Born in Florida in the late ‘30’s, money was very tight for Amos and his family. When he was 12, his parents divorced and he was – fatefully for many of us – sent to New York City to live with his Aunt Della. Della loved to cook and her specialty was chocolate chip cookies. 

“I have a fetish for chocolate chip cookies,” Amos said once in Ebony Magazine, “I think it’s more than a fetish. I think it’s bordering on being fanatical.”

Amos dropped out of high school and joined the Air Force in 1955.  He used his time on active duty to get his GED.  After his service, he returned to New York City and got a job in the stock room at Saks Fifth Avenue. From there, he moved to the mailroom at the William Morris Agency and in 1962, Amos became the first black talent agent in the history of the agency.

While at William Morris, Amos discovered and signed Simon & Garfunkel and later would head the agency’s newly formed rock ’n’ roll department where he worked with Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and a little known girl group - Diana Ross & the Supremes!  Amos’ rise at the talent agency was in no small part due to you guessed it, chocolate chip cookies.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

At this point in his life, Amos was baking cookies, but mainly for himself. He would take these cookies to business meetings and parties. He would send packages of his chocolate chip cookies to new talent with notes asking them to come see him. By the mid 70’s, he was done with the entertainment business and with a $25k loan from Marvin Gaye and Hellen Reddy, he opened his first cookie shop and the very first gourmet cookie brand was born, The Famous Amos Cookie Company.

Within two years, the company was producing six tons of cookies each week and Amos’ fortunes were on the rise. In 1980, his trademark Panama hat and shirt were inducted into the Smithsonian. But by the mid 80’s, even though his cookies were more popular than ever, the day to day operations of the company required more money than it could bring in. He had to sell the company and watch as it would be sold over and over again.

In the 90’s Amos started another cookie company in Hawaii. He was legally forbidden to use his own name, so his new company, the Uncle Noname Cookie Company was born. Noname would become Uncle Wally’s Muffin Company in 1999.  

His entreprenurial purists didn't stop there, in 2014, Amos started yet another cookie company, The Cookie Kahuna. This year, a documentary “The Great Cookie Comeback: Re-Baking Wally Amos” will be released about the life of Wally Amos.