J.L. Coe, 69; Aide to Dole, First Female Secretary of Senate

From the Washington Post

Jo-Anne Lee Coe, a key fund-raiser for former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and the first woman to serve as secretary of the Senate, died of an aortic aneurysm Sept. 27 at a hospital in Fairfax, Va. She was 69.

Coe worked for Dole nearly 35 years, and in later years helped make him the Republican Party’s top money gatherer. In addition to House and Senate races and three presidential campaigns, Dole has financed a political action committee and two private foundations. Altogether, he, Coe and other aides raised more than $100 million for campaigns and Republican causes.

Coe joined Dole’s congressional office as a caseworker in 1968 as he prepared for his first Senate race. She became his Senate office manager, then was office manager for his vice presidential campaign when Gerald Ford sought the presidency in 1976. When Dole became Senate majority leader in 1985, he nominated Coe to be Senate secretary. In that post, she supervised the upper house’s administrative apparatus, historical and archival functions, and interparliamentary relations with other countries.

After the Democrats assumed control of the Senate in 1987, she returned to Dole’s Senate staff and then joined his 1988 presidential campaign staff. When Dole lost the primary, she became executive director of the Campaign America political action committee, which she helped him found.


The committee raised millions of dollars for Republican House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates and at one point was second only to the Teamsters Union among independent PACs.

In 1995, Dole appointed Coe finance director of his presidential exploratory committee. She was also acting campaign manager and then became deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

After he lost to Bill Clinton, Dole joined the Washington law firm of Verner Liipfert McPherson & Hand as a special counsel, and Coe joined him as his chief of staff.

She also advised clients on legislative strategy and registered as a lobbyist for clients that included Taiwan’s unofficial embassy in the United States.


She managed Dole’s personal business interests, including relationships with speakers bureaus and the publishers of his books.

She helped him raise money for the World War II Memorial Commission, the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, and the Families of Freedom Scholarship fund--co-chaired by Dole and Clinton--to assist families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Coe was born Jo-Anne Lee Johnson in Coronado, Calif. She attended George Washington High School in Alexandria, Va., and the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.

She was the daughter of Adm. Roy Lee Johnson, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet during the Vietnam War, and accompanied him as a young adult to posts that included Japan and Hawaii, where she worked as a secretary at military installations.

Survivors include a daughter, Kathryn Lee Coe Coombs of Alexandria.