Fifty years ago aged 16 he had to buy his own bicycle and typewriter to get his first reporting job. Half a century later to the day, Keith Parker stepped down as chairman of the Newspaper Qualifications Council.
During 17 years as editor and later as managing director, Parker built the Wolverhampton Express and Star into the biggest-selling regional daily newspaper in the country.
High-pressure editionising delivered bespoke issues of the newspaper into all corners of his circulation area. Before we heard of Wapping he introduced computers into his newsrooms to improve the speed and the production of those editions.
His was a total newspaper. His journalists went to wars, they covered major national stories, they didn’t sit glum-faced watching the PA copy stream in.
He produced the paper through two lengthy strikes, including one over new technology that involved hundreds of pickets and police surrounding the building. It was so bad at one time that an incendiary device was placed under the car of the chairman,the late Malcolm Graham.
But this was always because he wanted to produce the best, biggest-selling newspaper. Something his teams could have pride in so that the people of the West Midlands could have their own full-service daily newspaper.
He campaigned on press freedoms, on journalism training, helped to draft the PCC Code of Practice and was president of the Guild of British Newspapers.
In an unrivalled career little would have given him more pride than when a host of legendary regional editors like Ian Beales, Derek Tucker, Allan Prosser, Keith Elliot and Adrian Faber gathered last week to buy him lunch and swap stories to celebrate that career.