Clem Jones - Press Gazette

Clem Jones

Clem Jones, editor of the Express & Star, Wolverhampton, from 1960 to 1970 has died, aged 87.

His finest hour was probably in dealing with the aftermath of the anti-immigration "Rivers of Blood" speech by Enoch Powell in 1968. The editor was friendly with the then Conservative Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South West, whom he described as "a very human manÉ always slightly stiff".

But Clem Jones also knew Powell had a weakness for propaganda put out by the National Front, including one claim that a constituent was worried because her little daughter was the only white child in the class.

Jones ordered Express & Star reporters to check virtually every school in the constituency. They failed to find either the class or the child.

After Powell’s explosive speech, Jones knew his duty as editor was to try to balance the pro-Powell letters to the Express & Star with letters putting opposing views.

For his pains he received some abusive phone calls at home ("Is that the bloody nigger lover?" said one caller) and had his windows broken.

In 1972 his services to journalism were marked with the award of the CBE.

Clem Jones was born in Wales, where he joined a local paper at 16. He moved to the Express & Star in 1943. He began as a reporter at Bilston and went on to tackle virtually every editorial job, including film and drama critic, gossip writer, features editor and news editor.

It was a golden age of newspapers and Jones saw circulation soar during his term in the editor’s chair.

He was a member of the Press Council, serving on its complaints committee, and was a member of the International Press Institute and the Commonwealth Press Union. In 1977 he travelled to Africa, delivering a series of lectures on journalism.

In 1979, he joined members of the Monopolies Commission on a panel to look into the transfer of the West Somerset Free Press to the Bristol United Press.

Keith Parker, later editor of the Express & Star, said: "Clem Jones was a huge figure in the regional press. He believed passionately in press freedom." Jones retired to the Essex coast but later moved to Hampshire, where he took great pride in his last journalistic job, as the St Mary Bourne village correspondent for the Andover Weekly Advertiser.

The story had come full circle. A great figure in British journalism had returned to his roots.

He told friends: "It is just going back to what I was doing quite happily at 16, going around the villages of rural Wales." His wife, Dr Marjorie Jones, was a magistrate who died in February 1991.

Two of the couple’s three sons went on to become top-ranking journalists. George Jones is political editor of The Daily Telegraph and Nicholas Jones retired last month as a political correspondent with the BBC.

The third son, Jonathan, has just retired after a career in the computer industry.

George Jones said: "My father was a strong believer in the independence of the press. He believed that regional and local newspapers were an essential part of the community and had a vital role in informing and educating the public.

"He believed they had as much right as the national newspapers to tackle big social and moral issues.

"He had at least one offer in the Fifties to go to London but he chose to stay and develop his career with the Express & Star."

Peter Rhodes

lThis is an edited version of an obituary which appeared in the Wolverhampton Express & Star


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