OBITUARIES : John J. Louis Jnr

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The Independent Online
John Johnson Louis was a Middle Western aristocrat who served as Ronald Reagan's first ambassador to the Court of St James's, where he was well liked but not well known. Dignified and quiet, he was more of a traditional business conservative than an ideologue of the Reagan revolution.

Louis's great-grandfather was the founder of S.C. Johnson and Son, the makers of Johnson's Wax. The Johnsons played a leading part in the cultural as well as the business life of the Chicago region, and commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design several of his most important buildings. Louis inherited a substantial fortune and had a successful career in advertising and marketing and finally as a leading investor in the US media industry.

In 1943, before going to college, Johnson volunteered for the United States Army Air Force, and served as a second lieutenant, aircraft pilot. In the early Fifties he worked as an account executive with the Chicago advertising agency Needham, Louis and Brorby Inc, and from 1958 to 1961 as international marketing director for the family firm, S.C. Johnson.

In 1961 he became chairman of KTAR Broadcasting, which controlled both a radio and a television station, and he served there until 1968. In that year he helped to found the Combined Communications Corporation, a media conglomerate. Combined Communications owned the Oakland Tribune in California, the Cincinnati Enquirer in Ohio, seven television stations and 13 radio stations.

In 1972 Louis was sufficiently prominent as a Republican Party fund-raiser in Chicago to be given a modest reward by the Nixon Administration. He was appointed the president's personal representative to the ceremonies marking the 12th anniversary of the independence of the Gabon Republic.

Conservative in a traditional way, Louis was not identified with the activist Right which swept into power in Washington when Reagan was elected. But his staunch Republicanism combined with his personal wealth and understated good manners made him a natural appointment as ambassador to Britain, He was a popular figure, but after two years he was replaced by a distinctly more aggressive successor.

Godfrey Hodgson

John Jeffry Louis, businessman, diplomat: born Evanston, Illinois 10 June 1925; Director, Johnson's Wax 1961-95; US Ambassador to Britain 1981- 83; married 1953 Josephine Peters (one son, two daughters); died Chicago 15 February 1995.