It is reported that former president Jimmy Carter went to a nursing home where Jody Powell's mother lives to tell her of her son's death before she could hear it on television news.
I was pretty shocked to hear of Powell's death. He, of course, was press secretary to President Carter and before that to Carter when he was the Governor of Georgia.
Powell arrived at the White House in 1976 when Carter unseated President Gerald Ford in that very contentious election. Of course Ford and Carter would later become friends, but it was the friendship of Powell who many say was among his closest and most cherished.
They met back in 1966 when Jimmy Carter thrust his hand toward Powell at a shopping center and, with a wide smile, said "I'm Jimmy Carter and I'm running for Governor."
Carter didn't win then, but in his next race he found the young Powell an eager volunteer and before long an unofficial chauffeur. Carter, it is said, was so impressed with the young Powell's knowledge of politics and policy that they immediate struck up a strong and long lasting friendship.
It probably also helped that both were from small towns in Georgia, religious and had similar outlooks on life.
Much like the Clinton years that would follow, the Carter White House received criticism by the Washington establishment that it was overrun by young turks who had more ambition than sense.
Of course that would prove to be wrong as President Carter made it a point to tackle as much as he could in one term as others might in two and he had the backing of his young, bright and energetic Georgia team. When told by friends to slow down and not take on too many controversial issues, Carter famously responded that he was elected president and it was his duty to do as much as he could, not to parse issues out so that he could stand a better chance of reelection.
Powell was not just a close friend of the president, but a fierce defender of him as well. And that defense would come to the forefront most recently when Senator John McCain, in his most recent bid for president, would call out former President Carter on any number of issues. It was Powell who was quick to point out Carter's early warnings about the nation's dependency on foreign oil and the fact that it was Carter who, in an effort to ween the country off of that oil, instituted plans that would include conservation, solar and other efforts that would have make the United States largely energy independent by the early part of this century. Of course once out of the White House those plans were scrapped by the new administration.
While I was probably first aware of Ron Nessen (press secretary to President Ford) and the duties to which they are charged, it was really Jody Powell who I came to recognize as the voice of the president.I became so intrigued at his ability to convey issues in a calm and folksy manner and realized that the message can better be delivered if done so in a friendly almost conversational manner. He was also rather adept at deflecting difficult questions with ease, although sometimes with a little heated exchange.
While I know I'm getting older and those who are older than me are doing the same. It's sad to lose those who we held in high regard. And Jody Powell was someone who I held in high regard.
It is probably a testament to how highly the former president regarded him as well. It seems to be telling of a different era, when people went out of their way to try to make things better for one another. And it is a testament to President Carter's good will and his deep friendship for Powell that he opted to be the one to share the heartbreaking news with Powell's mother.
I hope there are more Jody Powell's and Jimmy Carter's on the horizon. But from the way politics look these days, this may truly be one more step in the passing of an era.