Obituary: Anthony Rampton

Anthony Rampton, businessman, painter, philanthropist: born Kingston- upon-Thames, Surrey 24 October 1915; joined Freemans 1938, Managing Director 1964-65, Chairman 1965-84, President 1984-88; established Hilden Charitable Trust 1963; OBE 1966; Chairman, Committee of Inquiry into the Education of Children from Ethnic Minority Groups 1979-81; married 1939 Joan Shanks (three sons, one daughter); died London 30 December 1993.

ANTHONY RAMPTON was a successful businessman, a gifted photographer and painter, a much- loved philanthropist whose charitable work extended well beyond the British Isles, the author of an influential report on the education of children from ethnic minorities, and a man with a wide range of intellectual interests.

Tony Rampton was born into a relatively wealthy Methodist family. His grandfather had set up Freemans, a mail-order company based in Brixton, south London, in 1906. Tony went to Harrow and then to Queen's College, Oxford, where he read law. He would, like his son Richard, have made an excellent barrister. But the war intervened and Tony volunteered for the army. He joined the Royal Berkshires and was in India from 1944 to 1946 where he performed the remarkable feat of taking a convoy all the way from the south to the north of the country. After the war he returned to Britain as a major and joined the family firm. This was not the kind of thing Oxford-educated men did in those days, and he did need some forceful persuading.

Rampton was a remarkably successful businessman. He computerised the firm, expanded its range of services, built an enormous warehouse at Peterborough, increased the turnover, and made considerable money. When Freemans went public in 1963, its shares fetched unexpectedly high prices. Rampton and his wife, Joan, who shared his ideals, were embarrassed by this new wealth and felt worried lest it should unsettle their way of life and corrupt their children. In a remarkable act of wisdom and self-abnegation, they used it to set up several trusts, including the Hilden. The Hilden Trust now has a capital of around pounds 8m and disperses nearly pounds 500,000 a year for charitable causes and worthy projects, including some outside Britain.

In addition to his charitable work through the Hilden Trust, Rampton was directly involved in a number of worthwhile causes, including local church and youth clubs in south London. He was closely connected with the Lambeth Community Trust and its work for the homeless, and was active in the Lambeth Community Relations Council, where he was a source of much sound advice to many an activist. He devoted a lot of his time and energy to the adoption of children and the Standing Conference for Societies Registered for Adoption which he and Joan set up. He was appointed OBE for his work in this area. Despite some resistance, he made sure that his own firm employed a large number of black people. He helped set up the Runnymede Trust, a forum for research into race relations, and for nearly two decades gave it generous financial assistance.

In 1979 he was appointed as chairman of the Committee of Inquiry into the Education of Children from Ethnic Minority Groups set up by the Secretary of State for Education. This was an extremely difficult and delicate assignment, especially as there was no educational consensus on why Afro-Caribbean children performed so badly in public examinations. Rampton wisely guided the deliberations of the committee, made sure that it stayed clear of superficial explanations and political polemics, and held together a multiracial body with strong views and passions. The interim report of the committee blamed, among other things, low teacher expectations and the racial prejudices of both white teachers and society at large. It required considerable courage at the time to say this simple truth.

Not surprisingly the media tried to discredit the report even before its publication and the minister in charge of education sacked Rampton. He was deeply pained, not so much by the sacking as by the way inconvenient views were suppressed, but was never bitter and even urged some of us to stay on the committee in the larger interest of the community. Lord Swann, who succeeded Rampton, produced a report in 1984 which broadly repeated its conclusions, and they are now part of conventional wisdom. Rampton received no official recognition for his work, but earned the abiding gratitude of millions of ordinary black and white men and women and a large number of educationalists.

In spite of a stroke late in life, Rampton enjoyed good health. He was taken ill last month and rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties. A day before his death he became very ill and asked Joan if the end was near. When she said yes, he asked his doctor son David to take him through what he was likely to experience. He accepted the news of impending death with enormous dignity and courage, speaking separately to each of his four children and his grandchildren, and telling Joan how lucky they had been to have led such fulfilling lives.

Suggested Topics
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style