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.