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Tom Ellis, RIP

July 26, 2018

Tom Ellis, a Raleigh, NC attorney, and former manager of the Congressional Club, Sen. Jesse Helms’ political organization, has passed away at age 97. Tom Ellis, The Congressional Club and Sen. Helms were the best things to happen to the GOP since Ronald Reagan was elected Governor of California.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with Mr. Ellis in his office in Raleigh along with my colleagues, Dr. Michael Sanera and northern Virginia attorney, Gilbert Davis.

Lots of memories swirled about in that hour and a half meeting, of courageous political stands taken by Sen. Helms, my friendship with Arthur J. Finkelstein who did polling for Sen. Helms, and several friends who served on the Senator’s Senate staff: Dr. Christopher Manion, Howard Segermark and John Carbaugh.

But Tom Ellis was the genius behind the throne and did three very important things:

First, he and Sen. Helms attempted to purchase control of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), home of Walter Cronkite. In that attempt, Ellis and Helms sent much needed shivers through the arrogant media monopoly of the day.

Second, the support of the Congressional Club gave Ronald Reagan a much needed “win” in the North Carolina Presidential primary of 1980 that kept the Gipper’s campaign alive and on to victory in 1980.

And third, they plucked Dr. John East, an unknown political scientist at East Carolina State, to run for the U.S. Senate. Finkelstein took one look at East, a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, and designed a winning strategy: never let East be seen in public.

Sen. John East did me the honor of writing a favorable review of one of my books. Since I was, and am, as obscure as John East once was when he labored in the classrooms of East Carolina State, I was bowled over by his kindness.

Tom Ellis made that happen, and he called me one day to say that he thought one or two of his wealthy friends may be interested in investing in Yorktown University. Through Tom I met with John William Pope, the Sam Walton of North Carolina, who founded Variety Wholesalers.

But what I remember most about Tom Ellis is his account of how he cried like a baby when Ronald Reagan chose George H. W. Bush as his Vice President. Tom knew that George Bush was a New England, Internationalist, Liberal Republican and wanted U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt (R-NV) to be chosen as Reagan’s Vice President. Had President Reagan taken Tom Ellis’ advice, the GOP might be alive today.

Rest in Peace, Tom.




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