Obituary: Ken Jackson

Tributes paid to former West Midlands journalist.

A highly respected West Midlands journalist who played a pivotal role in the launch of the Channel Tunnel during a distinguished fifty-year career in newspapers and PR has died.

Ken Jackson (pictured) was Director of Corporate Affairs at Wolverhampton-based Tarmac when the construction giant was lobbying for the contract to help build the tunnel.

Ken, who has died at the age of 76 following a lengthy illness, helped mastermind the Tarmac publicity campaign, which eventually led to the construction of the historic UK-France link.

One of the biggest engineering projects ever undertaken in the UK, taking more than seven years with more than 13,000 workers from England and France, the Tunnel has been named one of the seven wonders of the modern world, opening in May 1994.

Ken’s widow Hilary said: “Tarmac was one of the companies in the consortium to build the tunnel and Ken was in charge of the PR and marketing campaign at the time. He always said he helped secure the mandate for the Tunnel.”

Born in Chadsmoor, Cannock, the miner’s son began as a trainee reporter with the Cannock Advertiser before moving to newspapers in the North-East. He returned to the West Midlands in 1964 to work on the business desk of the Express and Star in Wolverhampton. He later joined the Birmingham Post as property editor before taking up his first PR job as Public Relations Manager with the Reliant Motor Company in Tamworth.

He returned to newspapers with the Birmingham Evening Mail from 1970 to 1977 before switching back to the PR world after being headhunted by legendary Tarmac boss Sir Eric Pountain. He enjoyed a twenty-year career at Tarmac, rising to Director of Corporate Affairs. Ken eventually left the construction giant to found the Jackson-Brown PR agency, which he ran with his wife Hilary for many years from his home at Sandon, near Stafford.

Over the course of more thantwenty years, he worked for a number of well-known clients, including building firms Chase Midland, Mowlem, Maitland Selwyn, retailer Beatties and many others.

Away from newspapers and PR, Ken worked in a voluntary capacity for many years for a number of West Midland public organisations, including the Government-led Wolverhampton City Challenge inner-city initiative, the First Community Health Trust in Stafford, the South Staffordshire and Shropshire Health Care Trust, Sandon and Burston Parish Council, Sandon Poetry Group and others.

He was also a life member of the NUJ and a long-serving member of Birmingham Press Club.

Hilary Jackson said: “He had a real sense of community. He always wanted to help people, that was his raison d’ĂȘtre until he died – he would give anybody a helping hand.”

Family and friends recall a kind and generous personality who could find common ground with all walks of life. West Midlands freelance journalist and former Birmingham Mail Business Editor Jon Griffin said: “I knew Ken for forty years from when we first talked in the summer of 1978 in his role at Tarmac. You meet so many people over the years in this business and lose touch with 95 per cent of them. But Ken always stayed in touch.

“He was always a journalist at heart and loved nothing more than recalling his days at the Birmingham Post and Mail in the years of mass circulation newspapers. He was a true gentleman, shrewd with an astute business brain, as well as a supportive and loyal friend with a wry sense of humour.”

Former colleague and ex-Birmingham Post Business Editor Fred Bromwich added: “Ken and I first met up in the 1950s when we were both on the National Council for the Training of Journalists course and, as with many of his former colleagues, he had remained in contact ever since. Ken enjoyed a great career as an outstanding journalist in his field and he was the complete PR professional.”

Ken leaves a widow Hilary as well as a daughter Debra and son Marcus from his first marriage.

The funeral will be held at St Dominic’s in Stone at 12 noon on Monday July 16 followed by burial at All Saints Church in Sandon and refreshments later at Sandy Leys Farm in Sandon.