Jimmy King, who wrote as Mackenzie King when he was the ballroom dancing correspondent of London’s The Star and then the Evening News, died on 23 February at the age of 98. He had lived at Sandy Cross, the Newspaper Press Fund’s home for retired journalists in Dorking, Surrey, for a number of years. It was here he wrote his autobiography, So you want to be a reporter!
The title of this fascinating book is taken from his first interview, when the editor of the North Star asked him the question before offering the 17-year-old a job as a junior reporter in the paper’s Newcastle office. He was paid just 5s (25p) a week. A year later he joined the Newcastle Evening Chronicle and North Mail, and at the age of 23, left for his first senior post with St Helens Newspapers.
Two years later, in 1928, he moved to Withy Grove, Manchester, first as a reporter then a sub on the Daily Dispatch and Evening Chronicle. He began writing about ballroom dancing on the Chronicle, contributing a weekly column as Dancing Man.
He arrived in Fleet Street in 1934, as a sub in the features department of The Star, and became picture editor on his return from war service. Later he became deputy features editor, and wrote a weekly dancing column under his own name. When Associated Newspapers took over The Star in 1960, he was invited to join the London Evening News in a similar role, his column and coverage of international dancing competitions continuing well after his retirement in 1966. His freelance work also included PR work for the International Dance Teachers Association, and film reviewing for the Brighton and Hove Gazette.
Jimmy had made Brighton his home in the mid-Fifties. He was married and widowed twice, and is survived by his daughter, Veronica, and grandson Tim.