Gary Warren Ferguson was a public relations consultant in St. Louis for nearly 40 years until his retirement in 1999. He came to St. Louis in 1954 as a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, helping cover the desegregation of the St. Louis Public Schools. He was a feature writer from 1956 until he turned to public relations in 1961. After retiring from consulting, he continued as community volunteer, concentrating on the inner city issues of public education and neighborhood economic development.
As a public relations consultant, with Fleishman-Hillard as a senior partner from 1961 until 1971 when he established his own firm, Gary Ferguson Associates, he managed a number of civic and school campaigns. Among them were a reform effort that in 1961 wrested control of the St. Louis Board of Education from a majority under which misuse of school maintenance employees and supplies had led to court ousters of one board member and of a building commissioner. The board member subsequently pleaded guilty of a criminal charge.
Other campaigns included successful school tax and bond issue elections in 1962, the drive to adopt a modern St. Louis County Charter in 1968, and a major parks and highway bond issue in St. Louis County in 1969. He also planned the strategy for the 1971 campaign in which St. Louis and St. Louis County voters established what is now known as the cultural district in which the county joined the city in funding and governing various institutions, the first members being the Art Museum, The Science Center and The Zoo.
His firm served the Illinois authority that proposed to develop a replacement for Lambert International Airport at Columbia, Il., a site originally selected by the St. Louis Airport Authority. The Illinois entity was dissolved after the federal government in 1977 approved a Lambert expansion plan submitted by Missouri authority set up by the legislature. The firm also served other governmental clients and was especially active in the health care public relations. Ferguson sold the firm in 1988 and it is now part of the St. Louis office of Shandwick, an international agency.
Mr. Ferguson's civic involvement included membership in the founding board in 1965 of the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse St. Louis Area, of which he subsequently served 4 years as president, from 1966-1970. He was president of the Mental Health Association of St. Louis from 1981 until 1983. Other board memberships included the St. Louis Council on World Affairs and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. He received the Bishops Award in 1965 for services to the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. While at the Post-Dispatch, he was an officer in St. Louis Newspaper Guild.
He was an alumnus of Yale University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He joined the news staff of the Providence, RI Journal after graduating from Columbia and subsequently worked as a reporter for the Richmond, VA News Leader, covering the state capital. He was in a Navy college training program during World War II and was called back to active duty during the Korean War, serving as an officer in the Atlantic Amphibious Fleet.
Mr. Ferguson was born in Stockon, KS on May 5, 1925, the son of a country newspaper editor, and lived in several Nebraska towns until entering the Navy. He married Doris Drisler of Pine Orchard, CT in 1948. Mr. Ferguson is survived by his devoted wife of 64 years and their four children, a daughter, Frances F. (Gregory) Gebhart, of Webster Groves; three sons, Arthur R. (Joy) of Glenview, IL,; Robert W. (Cora) of St. Louis; and Scott W. (Beth) of Portland, OR.; and two grandchildren, Andrew M. (Danielle) Ferguson of Geneva, IL and Ashley J. (Michael) McCaleb of Aurora, IL; three step grandchildren, Venus Kent, Jeanette and Scott Nuxoll; and three great-grandsons, Parker and Barrett Ferguson and Finn McCaleb. A Memorial Service for Mr. Ferguson will be held Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 9 South Bompart Avenue, Webster Groves, MO 63119 with a reception to follow in the parish's dining room. Contributions may be offered to Emmanuel Episcopal Church or Charity of Your Choice. Mr. Ferguson's family would like to extend a special thanks to friends and aids for their exceptional care. Memories and condolences may be offered at www.GERBERCHAPEL.com.