Joan Vermillion Braden

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Joan Braden was a State Department official, socialite and PR practitioner. She was married to Thomas W. Braden.

For two years beginning in 1976, Mrs. Braden was the State Department's coordinator of consumer affairs and special assistant to the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs. She had also been an aide to Nelson A. Rockefeller and had worked in political campaigns for John and Robert Kennedy.
The 1975 book Eight Is Enough, by her husband, Tom Braden, tells of their family of eight children. In 1977 the book was adapted as the ABC series, starring Dick Van Patten, which was broadcast by the network until 1981.
In the book, Mr. Braden, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate from 1968 to 1986, described his wife's personality: She's blithe. That's what it is about her, and that is why she is so everlastingly cheerful.
By 1976, when Mrs. Braden took up her State Department posts, her friends included Vice President Rockefeller, Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and many other powerful figures, who would assemble at the Bradens' large yellow clapboard house in Chevy Chase, Md., a Washington suburb.
According to those who dined there, the food was simple but good, and the furniture pleasant and necessarily childproof. There were always flowers and candles and, if the weather was right, a fireplace ablaze.
But it was not those things that made Mrs. Braden's dinner parties special, and her invitations a status symbol.
Rather, it was said in Washington, the main magnet was Mrs. Braden herself, a slight woman (5 feet 5 inches tall, admittedly too thin at 103 pounds) with short auburn hair and a wide smile -- blithe, as her husband said, and everlastingly cheerful.
Mrs. Braden herself wrote a book, Just Enough Rope: An Intimate Memoir (1989). Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Maureen Dowd said, Joan Braden has taken a lot of heat for this book, which has been criticized as a vapid kiss-and-sell by a Washington society hostess with the capital's most notorious 'open' marriage.'
'The title refers to the amount of freedom the author has received from her husband,' Ms. Dowd wrote. 'Washington insiders, however, sniff that it also alludes to the fact that she has hanged herself with this 'intimate memoir.'
But this reviewer does not take such a harsh view, Ms. Dowd continued, adding that after all, how can a book be all bad that features a shower scene with Nelson Rockefeller, a bedroom scene with Bobby Kennedy, a toe-tingling lunch with Kirk Douglas and an account of Frank Sinatra singing 'High Hopes' without his toupee?
Mrs. Braden was born Joan Ridley in Indianapolis, and was reared in the nearby town of Anderson and in Washington. She received a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University, and worked in the Pentagon during World War II.
From 1946 to 1951, she was an assistant to Mr. Rockefeller, who was then in the middle of a succession of Federal posts he filled before becoming Governor of New York in 1959. She went on to be a special assistant for public relations to Oveta Culp Hobby, the Eisenhower Administration's Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.
Later she and her husband moved to California, where Mr. Braden -- with the assistance of a $100,000 loan from Mr. Rockefeller, whom he had known for years -- bought a small daily newspaper, The Oceanside Blade-Tribune. Mr. Braden published the paper for more than 13 years before selling it to South Coast Newspapers for $1.6 million.
Besides her husband, Mrs. Braden's survivors include five daughters, Mary Poole of Alexandria, Joan Ridder of Denver, Susan Zarker of Takoma Park, Md., and Nancy and Elizabeth Braden, both of Denver; two sons, David, who lives in Taiwan, and Nicholas, of Alexandria, and 12 grandchldren. One of the Bradens' sons, Tom, died in 1994.[1]

Working with Robert Gray

Gray had learned early on that Washington is a two-party town, and, in order to prosper, he had to create the appearance of access to both Republicans and Democrats. He lured Gary Hymel, who for years had worked as a top aide to House Speaker Tip O'Neill, and he snagged Bette Anderson, a former high-ranking Carter administration Treasury Department official. And to complete his power base, Gray revived a trick from his old dowager-cultivating days. Only this time, he didn't escort the wives-of to parties; he hired them.
There was Noreen Fuller, the first wife of Vice President Bush's former Chief of Staff Craig Fuller. There was Nancy Thurmond, wife of Senator Strom Thurmond, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. There was Washington socialite Joan Braden. Keeping the wives of the powerful happy was smart business. Not that they knew anything about lobbying, but they contributed to the illusion of access. "Need a favor from Henry Kissinger? Call Joan Braden," The New York Times wrote. "A prominent Washington hostess with many highly placed friends, she regularly counts Mr. Kissinger among her dinner guests."[2]


  • Just Enough rope, 1989 villard Books New York.


  1. Joan Braden Is Dead at 77; Hostess to a Capital Elite, By ERIC PACE New York Times, Published: September 1, 1999
  2. Lord of the lies; how Hill and Knowlton's Robert Gray pulls Washington's strings. (Washington, D.C. public relations consultant) From: Washington Monthly | Date: 9/1/1992 | Author: Trento, Susan B.