Jody Powell

Jody Powell
Jody Powell LOC.jpg
16th White House Press Secretary
In office
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Ron Nessen
Succeeded by James Brady
Personal details
Joseph Lester Powell Jr.

(1943-09-30)September 30, 1943
Cordele, Georgia, U.S.
Died September 14, 2009(2009-09-14) (aged 65)
Cambridge, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Nan Sue Jared Powell
Children Emily Boddy
Education United States Air Force Academy
Georgia State University (BA)
Emory University (MA)

Joseph Lester "Jody" Powell, Jr. (September 30, 1943 – September 14, 2009) was White House Press Secretary during the presidency of Jimmy Carter,[1] the 14th person in history to serve in that role. Powell later co-founded a public relations firm.

Life and career

Born in Cordele, Georgia,[2] Powell grew up on a farm in Vienna, Georgia, 35 miles east of Carter's home town of Plains.[1] He attended the United States Air Force Academy beginning in 1961, but was expelled three years later for cheating on a history exam.[1] After finishing his bachelor's degree at Georgia State University in 1966, Powell enrolled in the doctoral program in political science at Emory University. He earned an M.A. in the discipline before leaving the program.[1]

While at Emory in 1968, he sent a paper he had written on southern populism to Jimmy Carter, and began working for the future president, who at the time, was running for governor of Georgia.[citation needed] Powell's first job for Carter was as a volunteer gofer and driver, with Powell taking Carter to various campaign stops throughout Georgia. Powell then became Carter's close friend and functionally served as his press secretary but eventually quit Emory mid-way in his studies to work full-time for Carter.[1]

Press Aide to Carter Campaign and White House Press Secretary

Powell with Hamilton Jordan on right

During Carter's first presidential campaign in 1976, Powell was noted for his energy and for calling reporters from wayside pay telephones to make sure they got Carter's record straight.[1] In the run-up to the 1976 presidential election, Time Magazine profiled Powell, anticipating that if Carter were elected, Powell would serve a "dual role as adviser and spokesman" and would become one of the most powerful White House press secretaries in history due to his close relationship with Carter.[1]

After Carter's 1976 election as president, Powell was described as a member of the "Georgia Mafia", a group of close aides from Georgia who moved to high positions in the Carter administration, but who were inexperienced in national politics.[3] Powell and Carter's chief of staff Hamilton Jordan appeared in 1977 as caricatures on the cover of Time in 1977[4] and were pictured on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine, where they were dubbed Carter's "whiz kids".[5] Powell served as White House press secretary until 1981, for Carter's entire term as president.

Later life

In 1985, he published a memoir, The Other Side of the Story, in which he discussed his leak to the Associated Press of the "rabbit incident", Carter's 1979 encounter with an enraged swamp rabbit, that "was intent on climbing into the Presidential boat".[6]

In 1990, he participated in Ken Burns' PBS documentary miniseries The Civil War, lending his distinctive voice to Confederate figures of the American Civil War, notably Generals Stonewall Jackson and John B. Gordon.

Powell and Sheila Tate, former White House press secretary to Nancy Reagan, co-founded Powell Tate, a public relations firm based in Washington, D.C., in 1991. Powell served as CEO of the firm[5][7][8] until his sudden death on September 14, 2009, from a heart attack at his home on the Eastern Shore in Maryland.[5] Powell was a member of the Board of Advisors for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "The Press: Carter's Mouth". TIME. 1976-08-02. Archived from the original on September 24, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-12.
  2. ^ "Jody Powell". NNDb. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  3. ^ "The Georgia Mafia". The American Experience: Jimmy Carter. PBS. Retrieved 2011-03-09.
  4. ^ "Cover: The President's Boys". TIME. 1977-06-06. Archived from the original on December 7, 2006.
  5. ^ a b c Tapper, Jake (2009-09-14). "RIP, Jody Powell". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2011-06-29. Retrieved 2011-03-06.
  6. ^ "Jimmy Carter Finds Nemo in Florida". KTTV- Fox. News Core. 2010-12-29. Retrieved 2011-03-06.
  7. ^ "About us". Powell Tate - Strategic Communications. Archived from the original on 2017-11-15. Retrieved 2011-03-06.
  8. ^ a b Brian Montopoli (2009-09-14). "Jody Powell, Former W.H. Press Secretary, Dies". Political Hotsheet. CBS News. Retrieved 2011-03-09.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Ron Nessen
White House Press Secretary
Succeeded by
James Brady