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
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
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.
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