On my desk in my office, I have a lot of files pertaining to various stories, topics, and research. There's one for politics, one for current stories, one for American Idol, and so on. Like many, I also have a "miscellaneous " file, which while vague, is meant for anything from old receipts, to jury summons requests, to old photos and notes that I have collected over the years. It just so happens that I went through the file and cleaned it out earlier this week. Lodged in the middle I came across a handwritten letter that was sent to me on September 6th, 2005. It read, "Anita Vogel - Good work with Bill O'Reilly from Kenner, Jefferson Parish! Best, Joe." A reference to a live report I did for Bill O'Reilly during our coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
Now, who on earth takes the time to send out a handwritten note with just a simple thought? But you see, that's the epitome of what made Joe Cerrell who he was, not just a legendary figure in the landscape of California and national politics, but someone everyone truly liked as well. Today I read with great sadness that Joe had passed away at the age of 75 from complications due to pneumonia, and I immediately thought of the letter I had sitting in my file.
Joe Cerrell is perhaps best known to our Fox News Viewers as a political commentator/analyst who appeared frequently on our air both as a live guest and on tape in many of our political stories from the early days of the network, up until just a few years ago. While we would call him to chat about the latest political races, Joe had a wealth of firsthand knowledge about candidates, elections and polling numbers that even the most successful people working in politics can only dream about.
Cerrell began his political career in the 1950's at the University of Southern California, where started the Trojan Democratic Club on a campus, known at the time for Republican activism. He soon went on to work for Attorney General Edmund G "Pat" Brown, when he was running for his first term as California governor in 1958. After Brown (current California Governor-elect Brown's father) won, Cerrell went on to run the California Democratic Party, and soon became the California campaign manager for the John Kennedy presidential campaign.
In 967, Joe and his wife Lee founded Cerrell Associates, a boutique political consulting firm that catered to candidates, issues and causes - local, statewide and national. The firm also handled high profile visits by the Dalai Lama, Armenian Pontiffs, and did work on many other presidential campaigns. In addition to working with John F. Kennedy, Cerrell worked personally with Hubert Humphrey, Lloyd Bentsen, John Glenn and Al Gore.
"Joe Cerrell was unique in American Politics.," says Hal Dash, current Chairman and CEO of Cerrell Associates. "He spanned many political eras and represented presidential candidates, on down to local judges with the highest professionalism, great humor and fantastic results over the years," Dash says.
Indeed It would take many pages to include all the accolades, awards and accomplishments Joe has racked up over the years, but that is not what most people who knew him will remember him for. For me personally, I'll always remember Joe as one of the nicest, most approachable and sincere people I've ever met. Someone generally interested in who you were and what you were doing. He always made time for us here at Fox News whenever we called him to come down to our office for an interview or to go to his. There was no question too simple or too tough he would not answer. In the rough and tumble sport of politics, Joe was a gentleman who treated everyone with kindness and a warm smile.
"Joe loved family, USC, Italians, Italian food and the New York Yankees, " says Dash. It's true, he loved to talk about his Italian background and his affiliation with local Italian clubs and often asked me if I had any Italian friends who would like to get involved. He also loved to talk about his wife, his children and grandchildren (seven of them) - his greatest accomplishments. Through working with Joe, we have come to know the excellent people he has hired that will carry Cerrell Associates into the future. Current Co-owners Hal Dash and Matt Klink in particular are two political experts I like to insert into my stories for the Fox News Channel. It's hard to get a better sound bite from just about anybody...they will always continue to make Joe proud.
As a reporter for nearly the last twenty years now, I've had the opportunity to get to know a number of people who happen to be famous for one reason or another. In the world of political consulting and public relations, Joe Cerrell certainly reached the highest levels of fame, but isn't it nice to know that he is also famous for his warmth, his humor, his decency, and of course ....his handwritten notes. We will miss you Joe Cerrell.