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A Lifetime Neck-Deep In Politics

NAACP Honors `Miss Cromwell'

February 13, 2005
By TOM PULEO, Courant Staff Writer

Ella Little Cromwell long ago turned her living room on Vine Street into a makeshift political clubhouse. Newcomers came looking for advice; the more established sought her blessing.

But as Cromwell, now in her 80s, sat down for an honorary celebration Saturday, friends and family talked as much about her renowned legwork for the Democratic Party as her guiding hand.

"What Miss Cromwell has been is the hardest-working person in city politics over a longer time than anyone," said former Hartford Democratic Chairman Robert Jackson. "When she was 73 she could go through a building faster than anyone. She was out of the car and up the four flights of stairs. She worked the streets, the elderly homes, the hospital, she was just endless.

"If there was one person who could impact an entire election with her work, it was her," Jackson said.

In typical fashion, Cromwell shrugged off the praise while waiting at her table to be honored at the Connecticut State Conference of the NAACP's 96th Birthday and Black History Month celebration.

"I'm glad I'm still here where I can smell the flowers," she said, nodding toward a half-dozen cut red roses on the white tablecloth.

Cromwell is an elegant women with a ready arm for any approaching shoulder. She long ago established herself as the political matriarch in Hartford's heavily Democratic and African American North End.

Formers mayors such as Thirman Milner and Carrie Saxon Perry found their way to her home, as did Jackson and numerous other politicians from every corner of the city. The silver-haired Thomas D. Ritter, a former House speaker, often turned to Cromwell to run his re-election campaigns.

Jackson said he first met "Miss Cromwell" in 1993 on the campaign trail. Everyone calls her that, out of respect, although she is a widow with two grown children.

"If she was a sports player, they'd call her the franchise," Jackson said.

Longtime political insider Abraham Giles turned out Saturday with about 150 others for the event at the Crowne Plaza Hotel downtown. He said when he arrived in Hartford in 1956, Cromwell was already neck-deep in politics.

"If you wanted some information or to get some work done," Giles said, "you'd go to Miss Cromwell."

Cromwell served on the Democratic town committee for 26 years and still holds a seat on the Democratic State Central Committee.

But for all her inside work she is perhaps best known for mentoring youngsters with political aspirations. She has always been a stickler about voter registration and participation in city politics and the NAACP.

"They always had time for me and I loved every one of them," she said of those she touched.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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