Born in Cordele and raised in nearby Vienna (pronounced Vi - enna), Joseph L. ("Jody") Powell was one of President Jimmy Carter
's most trusted assistants and a member of the so-called Georgia Mafia. He wanted to be an Air Force pilot but was caught cheating in his senior year and expelled from the Academy. Luckily, Georgia State accepted him after the fiasco and allowed him to matriculate. After a brief attempt at business, Powell returned to the books, this time Emory University, where he got his masters degree in political science.
He began working with Jimmy Carter in 1968. At the time Carter was preparing to run for governor and Powell became an all-around handy-man, serving as chauffeur, aide-de-camp and advisor. After Carter's election, Powell continued to assist Carter as governor. He was part of the team that began preparing for Carter's presidential run late in 1972.
When Powell and the other "Georgia Mafia" descended on Washington D.C. they did not follow established tradition, wearing blue jeans and t-shirts and going to country music concerts. Although Powell was generally more intelligent than others in Washington, for some reason the press enjoyed portraying him as a bumbling country hick, a reputation that was decidedly undeserved. Washington press also blamed him (and Carter's chief of staff Hamilton Jordan) for the inability of the President to get his agenda through Congress. This is partly correct, but it was the members of Congress who were more interested in protecting their pork-barrels who were more responsible for failing on Carter's agenda.
During his Presidency, Carter admitted that "Jody Powell knows me better than anyone else except my wife." Powell did have a temper, once dousing inimitable Sam Donaldson with a glass of red wine on a return flight from overseas. Donaldson did not report the incident until Jody wrote about it in his book.
He is currently (2002) president of Powell Tate, a Washington D. C. based public relations firm.