Joseph Stanley Kimmitt – Colonel, United States Army

Secretary of the United States Senate

Senate Secretary J. Stanley Kimmitt, 86, Dies

J. Stanley Kimmitt, 86, a retired Army Colonel, Democratic political consultant and former Secretary of the Senate, died December 7, 2004, after collapsing at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, where he was attending a Democratic Leadership Council reception for retiring Sen. John Breaux (Louisiana).


Colonel Kimmitt was Secretary of the Senate, its top officer, from 1977 to 1981. Before that, he spent 11 years as secretary for the majority when the late Mike Mansfield (D-Montana) was the Senate majority leader.

He went on to represent Hughes Helicopter, McDonnell Douglas Helicopter and Boeing Co. in Washington before founding in 1991 the political consulting firm now known as Kimmitt, Senter, Coates & Weinfurter.

A man of influence in Washington's permanent substructure of power, Mr. Kimmitt had careers in the military, political and corporate worlds. A decorated veteran who served in two wars, he was a member of the board of advisers for the Democratic Leadership Council since its inception in 1985 and helped introduce Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas to a wider audience.

As an assistant to Mansfield and as secretary of the Senate, he worked with a previous generation of political leaders, and he saw senators of substance and those enriching themselves, he told author Ronald Kessler for his book “Inside Congress” (1997).

“Without naming the senator, one practice was to sell him one hundred head of cattle for, say, one hundred dollars a head,” Mr. Kimmitt told Kessler. “Then about three months later, buy them back at fifteen hundred dollars a head. It was a nice way to increase a senator's capital.”

He added: “The greatest senator I've ever known was Dick Russell [D-Georgia]. (Russell) was not selfish, he was never on the take, he was frugal with government funds in his office. There was something about him that, if you walked in the room, you had the feeling of being in the presence of a significant person.”

In 1981, when he left the secretary of the Senate's office, he remembered above all the long wrangling over the Vietnam War.

“What stands out is the great philosophical debate that went on during that period, the Mansfields, the Fulbrights, the Cooper-Church amendment,” Colonel Kimmitt said. The 1970 Cooper-Church amendment forbade the use of U.S. troops outside South Vietnam.

In 1982, Colonel Kimmitt was profiled in a Washington Post article about how he influenced Congress on behalf of Hughes's AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. Although not registered as a lobbyist, he coordinated meetings with lobbyists and other political consultants, and took several House Appropriations Committee members on an elk hunting trip to his home state, Montana.

Throughout his life, his Montana ties remained strong. He helped form the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation and even after he left its board, he attended every board meeting, said the foundation's executive director, L. Gordon Flake. He told a Montana reporter a month ago that he still considered himself a gopher-shooting Montana boy.

“He remained a humble Montanan and always fun to be around,” said Walter F. Mondale, the former Democratic senator and vice president.

In Washington, he might have been seen wearing tailored shirts with monogrammed French cuffs adorned with Senate cufflinks. But his origins were humble.

Joseph Stanley Kimmitt was born April 5, 1918, in Lewistown, Montana, not far from where his father farmed wheat on borrowed money. A drought in the early 1920s wiped out the family's finances, and they moved to Great Falls, Montana.

Mr. Kimmitt attended the University of Montana, where he took an Asian history class taught by Mansfield, who was a professor there.

He served in the Army in Europe during World War II and was a combat commander. He fought at the Battle of the Bulge, crossed the bridge at Remagen and was in the first U.S. division to occupy Berlin.

During the Korean War, he was an artillery officer at Pork Chop Hill. S.L.A. Marshall wrote in his book, “Pork Chop Hill” (1956), that Mr. Kimmitt “had a habit of working physically as close to infantry as a gunner can get.”

After earning a bachelor's degree from Utah State University in 1957, he served in the Army in Europe. He also served three stints as the Army liaison to the Senate and retired in 1966 as a Colonel.

His decorations included the Silver Star and the Bronze Star, and he was inducted into the Field Artillery Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.

After leaving the Senate, he became vice president of government affairs for Hughes Helicopter, then worked for McDonnell Douglas and Boeing before founding his firm. He lived in McLean.

Three of his children died: Margaret C. Kimmitt in infancy in the 1950s, Kathleen A. Ross in 2002 and Dr. Thomas P. Kimmitt in 2003.

Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Eunice Wegener Kimmitt of McLean; three sons, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany, Robert M. Kimmitt of Arlington, Joseph H. Kimmitt of McLean and Army Brigadier General Mark T. Kimmitt of Tampa; two daughters, Mary K. Laxton of Bamberg, Germany, and Judy K. Rainey of Vienna; 12 grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

On the morning of his death, Mr. Kimmitt was kibitzing in the Senate cloakroom on the Democratic side. That night, “he died doing what he loved best, going to a Democratic function and being involved in politics,” Breaux said.

“He spent a half-hour [Tuesday] night talking to a young woman on my staff right before he fell over,” the Louisiana senator said. “He told her: ‘Never sacrifice your principles,' ‘Never ask for more than you deserve,' and something like ‘Never quit until you have something better.' ”

DATE OF BIRTH: 04/05/1918
DATE OF DEATH: 12/07/2004

DATE OF BIRTH: 05/29/1959
DATE OF DEATH: 05/31/1959

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