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In Memoriam: John W. “Jack” Felton, APR, Fellow PRSA

May 8, 2013

John W. “Jack” Felton, APR, Fellow PRSA, a two-time PRSA president, has passed away. He was 84.

“The art and science of public relations have lost a fervent supporter with the passing of Jack Felton,” said 2013 PRSA Chair and CEO Mickey G. Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA. “Jack was a charismatic leader and honorable man who devoted much of his life to the country and profession he loved. Whether serving in the Korean War, shepherding  the communications of global brands, teaching the next generation of public relations professionals or guiding PRSA with his vision and inspiration, Jack leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of success. We will miss him terribly.”

Felton was a key contributor to the public relations profession throughout his career. After serving as a public information officer in the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, he went on to lead communications efforts at Fortune 500 companies, including U.S. Steel, Interstate Brands and McCormick Spice Company.
In 1995, he began a career in education at the University of Florida and helped establish the Institute for Public Relations Research (IPR), an independent nonprofit that bridges the academic and professional fields, supporting public relations research and mainstreaming this knowledge into practice.  He retired from teaching and the Institute in 2004.

IPR previously named an award in his honor. The Jack Felton Golden Ruler Award recognizes excellence in public relations research, measurement and evaluation.

PRSA member Mark Weiner, CEO of PRIME Research, received the award last year.

“Jack Felton was a dear friend and mentor. A man whose talents were far greater than his accomplishments in public relations, Jack was a published author, playwright, raconteur and most important to him, husband and father,” Weiner said. “Jack was a bridge to the ‘Mad Men’ era of public relations and it was his pleasure to share stories about the way PR focused on personal relationships, great ideas and service to others. But he was not bound by the past, offering fresh insights and profound thinking even during his last days.”
A former PRSA president (1986-87), Felton was inducted into the College of Fellows in 1990 and won the Gold Anvil in 1992. He was also awarded the 1999 PRSA Educators Academy David Ferguson Award for outstanding contributions to public relations education as well as the Jackson Jackson & Wagner Behavioral Science Prize.

In 1991, PR News named him the “Outstanding Public Relations Professional of the Year.” Felton also received multiple awards and honors from the Arthur W. Page Society and Institute for Public Relations.

Aside from his public relations work, Felton has written plays, edited books and composed songs. He held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan.

In a 2011 interview with the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, Felton recalled his first job in public relations — serving as a public information officer at the Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring, Texas, in 1952.

“After a few weeks, I wrote home to say I liked what I was doing — writing news releases, stories and editorials for the base newspaper; speeches for the Commanding General; hosting a weekly talk show for local radio; planning civic events for area business leaders; and directing talent shows at the Officer’s Club,” he said. “This was when I saw the creativity and infinite variety a career in public relations offered.”

His wife of 57 years, Ann Reynolds Felton, passed away in 2011. He is survived by his three children: Dr. Fred Felton (wife, Joanne) of Baltimore; Dr. David Felton (wife, Sarah) of Green Bay, Wis., and MariAnn Felton Seybold (husband, James) of Fairfax, Va. There are six grandchildren.

The  funeral will be on Saturday, May 11 at 11 a.m. at Palms Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

The family is requesting that memorial contributions be made to the Vicars Landing Scholarship Fund.  Please mail your donation to 1000 Vicars Landing Way, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082, and write "in memorial to Jack Felton" in the memo.

Any cards or letters to the family should be sent to his daughter, MariAnn Felton Seybold, at 10304 Shiloh Street, Fairfax, VA 22030.

Ed Note: We encourage readers to use the comments section (by clicking the “View Comments” link below) to share your favorite memories about Jack and pay tribute to his life.


Rosanna M. Fiske, APR says:

We have all lost a dear and jolly friend. He will forever be in my heart.

May 8, 2013

David J. Therkelsen, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Jack was eternally positive. He believed in people, and he believed in the best of people. He influenced my view of practice, but more importantly, I know a lot of other people who also were strongly influenced by Jack. And for every one I know there are probably 20, equally influenced, who I don't know. As a side note, I've gotten to know Jack's grandson, JT Felton, and saw from both sides of the relationship how much love each had for the other.

May 8, 2013

Gerard Francis Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Jack contributed greatly to all facets of the public relations field. He touch hundreds with his wit, wisdom and activism and was a passionate advocate for the industry including PRSA and IPR. Rest in peace Mr. Felton!

May 8, 2013

Michael N. Daily, APR says:

Jack was a personal inspiration to me; with his perpetual energy, wealth of knowledge and experience, and true passion for our profession. He cared about us, and we cared about him. He will be missed very much and I will especially miss our livley breakfast chats at the IPRRC.

May 9, 2013

Merrie Meyers, PH.D., APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Jack not only engaged his colleagues, he left a mark on students as well. I met him while serving on the UF College of Journalism and Communications Advisory. I saw first hand his masterful work with the student Bateman team. Under his guidance, they won the competition that year. He was at home in education as he was in the corporate world.

May 9, 2013

Joe Epley, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Teacher, role model, pioneer, mentor, leader, friend…One of the all time greats of our profession. That was Jack Felton, APR, PRSA Fellow and wonderful human being. An evening with Jack was always entertaining and informative. Those of us who had time spend with him before we were president of PRSA benefited greatly from his sage advice. He set high standards for us to follow. Wish he could be cloned many times over. We would have a much better world.

May 9, 2013

Kathleen S. Kelly, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Jack meant a great deal to me, as he did to so many others. Our friendship goes back more than 30 years, when he was VP at McCormick in Baltimore and I was a fundraiser for the University of Maryland. We worked together on the board of the Maryland PRSA Chapter in the early 1980s, and I have many wonderful memories of such fun times as dancing with Jack at the annual PRSA Holiday Party. How fortunate I was that as our careers took us on different paths and to different locations, we still managed to see each other frequently and to continue to build fond memories. I will be at Jack's memorial service this Saturday - in the same church where we said goodby to his beloved late wife Ann just 18 months ago. To Jack and Ann – two of the nicest people I’ve ever met - we will miss you. Kathleen

May 9, 2013

Reese A. Nank, APR says:

Anyone in Baltimore will remember Jack as a helpful teacher of our profession. He was always willing to lend an ear or a hand to younger professionals. He set the standard for those of us coming up behind him.

May 9, 2013

Cheryl Procter-Rogers, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

He was a leader and visionary who had a heart as big as all outdoors--it was a pleasure to call him a friend and colleague.

May 9, 2013

Blake Lewis, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Many of us are standing on the shoulders of Jack and other leaders in our profession who have led before us. Blessings and comfort for his family on their loss as we celebrate what he has added to our field.

May 10, 2013

erik v. peterson, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Not just the consumate professional public relations person, he was a guy you wanted to have a drink with and solve the world's problems. He always had a twinkle in his eye.

May 10, 2013

Judith T. Phair, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Jack had such great energy, charm, and talent. Imagine heading corporate communications at McCormick -- and writing and producing plays on the side, while also giving countless hours to volunteer efforts, especially PRSA. In fact,Jack gave me my first volunteer assignment in PRSA. I was new to Maryland and the MD chapter when he became chapter president; I'd met him through my boss at a corporation across the street from McCormick -- we all admired the McCormick PR operation. Jack asked me to head the Education Committee, and I eagerly accepted. I remember our Executive Committee luncheon meetings at Baltimore's prestigious Center Club -- all courtesy of Jack and always featuring one of his favorite desserts, fresh pineapple. Those days ended when Jack took over as national president and served two distinguished years. He was always a friend and mentor to me and role model to us all. There will be an empty seat at the tables at Fellows and Past Presidents/Chairs this year -- but he will always be in our hearts.

May 11, 2013

Del Galloway, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

I am saddened at Jack's passing. He, along with his wonderful wife, Ann, made invaluable contributions to our profession and PRSA. Like so many, I have wonderful memories of laughs shared with Jack. I am blessed to have called him friend. I wish Jack, his family and all of us - peace.

May 11, 2013

Dwayne Summar, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Working with Jack on the PRSA Board -- and spending many good times with Jack and Ann -- was a professional and personal highlight that I recall fondly. May light perpetual shine upon him.

May 13, 2013

Steven V. Seekins, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Great role model for all in the public relations profession. Never too busy to provide advice and counsel. Always smiling. Leader in every way. We were blessed to have him walk amongst us.

May 14, 2013

Ken Garcia says:

Sad news. Jack was a mentor of mine at UF and after when I started my PR career in NYC. I had the distinct privilege of attending IPR's awards dinner with Jack at the Yale Club (?) in Manhattan as young PR account exec at Ruder Finn. Jack and an IPR advisory board member (Amy Binder) helped me land my first job and I will always be indebted. Jack is a big reason why I went into PR and why I have made it my career. Jack will truly be missed by the profession and the UF College of Journalism and PR...

May 14, 2013

Bob O'Linn says:

I had the pleasure of getting to know Mr. Felton during his time at Vicar's Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. I worked as the bartender at the dining facility and developed a strong bond with Mr. Felton over his love of writing, wit and theater. In the summer of 2010, before I left Vicar's to go to law school, he wrote one of his many plays and was kind enough to cast me in it. I will never forget that experience and the laughter we shared producing that play. Mr. Felton was truly an exceptional personality !

March 17, 2015

Rodger Hamic says:

I took a public relations writing class at night at University of Florida 96/97. A small class of about a dozen. We were fortunate yo have him. He encouraged me to write children stories.

May 14, 2017

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