Sen. McConnell offers condolences following death of Janet Grissom

 May 2, 2023

Janet Mullins Grissom, who served as the first campaign manager and chief of staff for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), passed away over the weekend at the age of 73, The Hill reported.

The Kentucky senator shared the sad news and offered condolences to her family during a speech on the Senate floor on Monday.

"Couldn’t imagine a better friend"

"Over the weekend, our nation lost an outstanding public servant, and I lost a dear friend of nearly 40 years," Sen. McConnell said in his remarks. "Janet Gardner Mullins Grissom was a proud daughter of Louisville, a trailblazing government leader, and my very first Chief of Staff here in the Senate. She passed away at the age of 73."

"Janet had smarts. She had tenacity. And she had a communications style that one might delicately call direct. Our hometown newspaper would later report that she had 'a salty tongue,'" he noted at one point. "That was putting it mildly. She was a riot. She was a force of nature. And these qualities fueled a meteoric rise."

McConnell shared how Grissom had first begun working as a Senate staffer in Washington D.C. as a single mom at the age of 29 but had returned back home to Louisville, where they first met in 1983 at a parent-teacher function at the school both of their daughters attended and how he "had to cajole" her to manage his campaign, which she didn't expect to win.

They did win, however, and "Janet’s veteran know-how helped me hit the ground running and make an impact from the start. She could handle sensitive meetings, explain detailed policy issues, and curse a blue streak at some unruly reporter -- and she’d do it all before lunchtime. You couldn’t imagine a better friend to have in your corner."

Stellar career as a top aide in D.C.

According to her obituary, Janey Mullins Grissom was born in 1949 in Louisville, Kentucky as the second of six children to her parents, and ultimately graduated from both the University of Louisville and American University.

She first began her work career at a department store in Louisville but then moved to Washington D.C. and holds the honor of being the first woman to serve as chief of staff for two different U.S. senators.

She later also served as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs at the State Department -- where she was a top aide to former Secretary of State James Baker -- was Assistant to the President for Political Affairs at the White House under former President George H.W. Bush, and concluded her career as Corporate Vice President, Washington Affairs at Ford Motor Company.

Grissom is survived by her husband Thomas and daughter Shannon, along with her three brothers and a sister, as well as two other children fathered by Tom in a prior marriage, Jesse and Mary, and six grandchildren.

Condolences to the family

In his remarks on the Senate floor, McConnell said Grissom "built a prototypical Washington D.C. powerhouse resume by being a thoroughly un-typical Washington person. Brilliant and accomplished, yes, -- but tough as nails, and a little rough around the edges in the best ways."

"That same spine of steel helped Janet hold a serious illness at bay for a number of years," he continued. "And up to just a few days ago, she was still in the fray! Still 'tweeting' up a storm on politics and media criticism. Relishing the good fight to the end."

The senator further noted that his friend had "lived to see her most lasting legacy come full circle" in the form of the "thriving" success of two of her adult grandchildren, Harry and Sam, the latter of whom "has gone into political communications himself. He even spent a couple years in my office as an outstanding speechwriter and press aide."

McConnell concluded, "Elaine and I send our deepest condolences to Janet’s husband Tom; her beloved daughter Shannon; her grandchildren Harry and Sam and all the family members, friends, and colleagues mourning this tremendous loss."

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