John Payne Jackson was one of the most colourful personalities in the Nigerian press, a journalist and philosopher, born on 25 March 1848 in Cape Palmas. He started the commercially successful Lagos Weekly Record in 1890 and was for the next twenty-five years one of the most outstanding journalists in the whole of West Africa, although his journal’s activities were occasionally suspended due to his erratic personal life conditioned by a weakness for strong drink. Payne’s father, Thomas John Jackson, renowned for his intelligence and knowledge, migrated from Maryland in the United States of America to a colony in Liberia.
John Payne was born in Liberia but he moved to Nigeria to be a trader. Jackson inherited his father’s painstaking and incisive intellect. This attribute however, was not carried into his personal management lifestyle as he was poor in book keeping and drank too much even at work. This would lead to his dismissal at Lagos Times in 1882. His collaboration eight years later with his estranged boss hit the rocks for his lack of accountability.
With the assistance of friend, Dr. John Randle, Payne carried on with his huge drive to succeed and have his Lagos Weekly Record, formed in 1890 outsell his former senior partner’s Lagos Times. A government advertisement subsidy on his newspaper brought the much needed finance in an uncertain period. Print media historian, Fred I.A. Omu did not state whether Jackson enjoyed the respect of his government financier, but it appears he managed somehow to support Governor F.T. Carter, and in thesame breath, stimulate nationalism. Jackson became a valuable adviser of the government but when the subsidy was removed by new governor Mac Gregor in 1900 he was driven to total opposition.
Jackson’s philosophy revolved around the amelioration and advancement of African institutions through self-civilization. Although he agreed stimulus for civilization had being provided by the European civilization, he was of the view that African family values were superior to the West’s. When he died in 1915, he was hailed even as “a great king.” His son, Thomas Horatio Jackson resumed editorship of his newspaper after him.