Remembering the Important Life of Jack Felton

Jack Felton

I’m not a fan of the Reply All feature of email, but I’m not complaining about it today.

Yesterday, I received messages from two professional organizations–the Plank Center and the Institute for Public Relations–advising long lists of recipients about the unexpected death of public relations legend Jack Felton, 84.  Almost immediately, I began receiving Reply All messages from more than 90 people around the world who shared their memories of this remarkable gentleman.

I recalled meeting Jack nearly 30 years ago when I worked for Sara Lee and he headed PR at McCormick, the huge spice producer. I’ll never forget Jack’s innovative approach to communications as evidenced by his producing the first-ever “scratch and sniff” annual report. It was a great way to promote what your business was all about and engage your shareholders. Since we were active in many of the same organizations–PRSA, Arthur Page Society, Institute for Public Relations and Plank Center, Jack once jokingly said we saw more of each other than our wives. That wasn’t the case since Jack’s wife, Ann, almost always was at his side throughout their 57 years of marriage. Ann died in 2011, leaving Jack with wonderful memories that he enthusiastically shared with friends and family.

Following his retirement from McCormick, Jack didn’t slow down. He went to work for the Institute for Public Relations where he led the organization for several years as it expanded its highly regarded board and research-focused programs. A long-time friend of Betsy Plank, Jack was one of the first to join the inaugural board that launched the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Earlier in his career, he found time to serve as president of PRSA and remained active in the organization throughout his life.

In 1991, Jack received the “Outstanding Professional of the Year” from PR NEWS and a year later he received the Gold Anvil, highest award of the Public Relations Society of America. In 1999, Jack was awarded the David Ferguson Award “for outstanding contributions to PR education” from the Educators Academy of PRSA. In 2002, he received the Arthur W. Page Society’s Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his contributions to strengthening the role of public relations.

For young readers who didn’t have an opportunity to meet Jack, you can read about him in his own words in a 2011 interview at the Plank Center or in this YouTube video summarizing his career.

The public relations profession is a better place today thanks to the energy and enthusiasm that Jack Felton put behind everything he did throughout his accomplishment-rich career. Rest in peace, Jack and give our love to Ann.


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