Jim Fellows, key diplomat within public TV, dies at 77

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James A. Fellows, 77, an advocate of high ideals and strategic planning for public television, died in his sleep Friday, Jan. 6, at a nursing home in Millville, N.J.

Fellows represented stations on the national scene for 40 years, serving as the last president of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters, founding Current as a service of NAEB, remaining its publisher for more than 20 years, and working to establish a strategic planning unit for the famously fractured and decentralized public TV field.

In 1979, CPB honored him with its highest award for achievement in public television, the Ralph Lowell Medal.

From 1983 to 2003 he led Central Educational Network, a regional association of stations, and for years he chaired the Maryland Public Television Foundation. A longtime participant in the Prix Jeunesse biennial children’s TV festival, he chaired its international advisory board and founded what is now the American Center for Children and Media, based in Chicago.

Fellows’ active life was curtailed in December 2003, when he was hit by a car in front of his Maryland home. Fellows was seriously injured in the accident, suffered a stroke in 2004 and battled Parkinson’s disease for the rest of his life.

He is survived by nephew Andrew Marx, Marx’s wife Tiffany and son Noah, of Dallas; niece Karen Marx of New York, cousin Joan Robinson of Rye, N.H.; uncle William Fellows and his wife Marge of Wadsworth, Ohio; longtime friend and caregiver Peters Willson of Millville, N.J., and many friends across the country.

The family plans a funeral and burial service this spring in Rensselaer, N.Y., at his boyhood family church, and a memorial service in Washington, D.C., also in the spring.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Fellows’ name to the American Center for Children and Media, 5400 N. St. Louis Ave., Chicago, IL 60625 or to donors’ local public radio or TV stations.

An expanded obituary will be published in Current, Jan. 17.

3 thoughts on “Jim Fellows, key diplomat within public TV, dies at 77

  1. Jim Fellows’s name is written in the hagiography of founders of evolving educational media, particularly television. Professionally educated at Syracuse University, Jim heard the call of Newton Minow’s “vast wasteland” speech and dedicated his work life to harnessing the power of media for education. Through the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB) and later with his support of Current, he brought together people and ideas about improving learning through media.

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