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Former Commissioner James Quello, 1974-1997, Dies at 95

by: George Krebs

January 27, 2010

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Commission employees were greeted with somber news Monday morning. An old FCC friend, former Commissioner Jim Quello, died Sunday staff learned in an email from Chairman Genachowski. Appointed in 1974 by President Nixon, his tenure spanned twenty-four years and his influence was felt throughout the Commission. The agency spent yesterday celebrating the life of Commissioner Quello.

In addition to his agency-wide email, the Chairman released a statement. Portions of that statement and those of Commissioners Copps, McDowell, Clyburn and Baker follow.

From Chairman Genachowski:

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of former Commissioner Jim Quello. Jim was a friend and a beloved Commissioner of this agency for more than two decades. Known as the 'Dean' of the FCC -- and 'Boss' to the many staffers who worked for him -- he was a role model to generations of FCC employees and advocates for his decency, personal charm, and commitment to his work. He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of service to the FCC, the communications industry, and the American people.
 
Commissioner Quello’s long life was packed with accomplishment. He was born April 21, 1914, in Laurium, Michigan -- eleven years before the first public demonstration of television and two decades before the creation of the FCC. He served his country with great valor and distinction in World War II, surviving six amphibious landings and earning multiple decorations and campaign ribbons. He spent his first career as a broadcaster, finding ways to serve local communities in the early days of the medium. And he went on to serve the FCC as Commissioner from 1974 until 1997, receiving numerous honors and earning widespread respect and affection.
 
 
You can tell a lot about how a person lived by the way he or she dies. Jim Quello died with grace, confidence, a calm spirit, and pride in a life well lived. I visited with him Friday and, albeit weaker, he was alert. Good-spirited, and still talking about issues and about the Commission he loved so much and served so long, so well.
 
Jim's tenure at the FCC, particularly his Chairmanship, drew the best from people because he gave them his best back. He empowered people and they loved him for it.
 
Warrior, broadcaster, public servant--wherever he served, Jim gave it his all and, when he left his various posts, he left them better than he found them.
 
 
As a young attorney new to communications law in the early 1990s, I first encountered Jim from afar as one of many who watched, and grew to admire, the collegiality and openness he brought to his role as Acting Chairman.
 
…Jim personified the best attributes of America’s “Greatest Generation.” Prevailing over the hardships brought about by the Great Depression, without hesitation he risked his own life in the struggle to defeat fascism in Europe during World War II. In peacetime, he helped build Michigan’s broadcasting industry before being asked to serve his country once more on the FCC.
 
…His indomitable spirit, colorful sense of humor, bipartisanship, and commitment to public service will never be forgotten.
 
 
I almost missed meeting Commissioner Jim Quello last month. I drove up and down Army Navy Drive for almost 30 minutes searching for his annual holiday party. Lost and frustrated, I was just about to call it quits when finally I arrived.
 
As I walked into the room, I was reminded of some of those larger-than-life stories I have often heard about the Commissioner. Quite frankly, they made me fairly anxious about meeting him. But once we were introduced, my uneasiness quickly transformed into a peaceful admiration.
 
…My one encounter with Jim Quello has inspired me to continue my quest to be a bold, dedicated public servant.
 
 
The Commission has lost a dear friend in Jim Quello. My thoughts and prayers go out to Commissioner Quello’s family and friends. He had an exemplary 23-year public service career and an unrivaled commitment to this agency and the communications industry. He will be missed, but his tenure and legacy will not soon be forgotten.
 
By the accounts of those who worked with him or came across him, Commissioner Quello was an impressive figure. His accomplishments were many and his service cut across party lines. His impact on the FCC is undeniable. As the Chairman wrote in his initial email, “With his passing, the agency and the country have lost a communications giant and war hero.”
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