Jack O’Connell, who worked in public relations and corporate communications before becoming president of the Sugar Association, an organization that promotes the sugar industry, died Jan. 9 at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington County. He was 84.
He had complications from cancer, said Nancy Gravatt, a former wife.
Mr. O’Connell came to Washington in the mid-1970s as a communications officer for the Sugar Association. He served as president of the organization from 1982 until his retirement in 1988.
He received the Silver Anvil Award of the Public Relations Society of America for an information campaign about the role of sugar in the diet. In retirement, he worked as a communications consultant.
John Robert O’Connell Jr. was born in Leonia, N.J., and was a 1953 journalism graduate of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. He served in the Army in the 1950s and received a master’s degree in humanities from New York University in 1959.
Early in his career, he worked in New York for a trade publication about metals and then held media-relations jobs with Reynolds Aluminum and a paper company. He worked for Carl Byoir & Associates, a New York public relations firm, for about a decade before moving to Washington.
Mr. O’Connell lived in Reston, Va., and volunteered with the United Way. He often traveled internationally to visit art museums.
His marriages to Joan Brudnicki and Nancy Gravatt ended in divorce.
Survivors include a daughter from his first marriage, Wendy Robertson of Shelton, Conn.; a daughter from his second marriage, Robin Presley of Herndon, Va.; a stepson, Nick O’Connell of Oak Hill, Va.; and a granddaughter.