This job has a lot of perks. For one thing, I get to chat with you a couple of times a week on whatever floats my boat and you get to tell me whether my opinions were smooth sailing or sunk like a rock.
I get to prick the egos of pompous politicians, jerk the chains of wing nuts on both sides of the political spectrum and have great sport with all manner of humor-impaired souls of which there seems to be no end.
And occasionally I get to be a part of something that reminds me that Cobb County is a special place with special people.
Last Thursday, I was honored to be a part of a surprise 80th birthday party for Joe Daniell, executive vice president of Vinings Bank. If you don’t know who Joe Daniell is, chances are that you have just arrived from Mars. Chances are, also, that Joe knew you were coming, when you would arrive and already has plans to involve you in one of the many civic endeavors he has going in Cobb County.
What Joe didn’t know was that Cobb County’s movers-and-shakers and his colleagues at Vinings Bank had planned this occasion without his knowledge. It may be the only special event held in Cobb County in which he wasn’t involved in the planning.
The list of good things this man has done in the county is too extensive for the space I have available but it includes the launch of the Aviation Wing of the Marietta Museum of History, the renovation of the Strand Theatre on Marietta Square and promoting the key role Marietta native and WWII hero Gen. Lucius Clay played in the development of our interstate highway system.
A corporate citizen of the first rank, Marietta Daily Journal named him Citizen of the Year in 2004. Daniell chaired the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s first Tourism Committee. He coordinated the first “Cobb Executive Women’s Program” and was recognized with the Cobb Executive Women’s “Glass Ceiling Award.” Working with the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance, he helped to organize two state-wide banking schools, the Bank Audit School and the Bank Operations School at Kennesaw State.
In addition to his day job as a respected banker, Daniell also finds time to organize standing room-only lunches with notable speakers which has served to set Vinings Bank apart from their competitors.
Perhaps the best known of Joe Daniell’s efforts is the Cobb County Annual Prayer Breakfast, which he was instrumental in organizing. Begun in 1988, the event is now considered to be the second largest of its kind in the nation, behind only Washington D.C., with a crowd of around 1,000 in attendance each year.
The breakfast has drawn a Who’s Who of illustrious speakers from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to Oscar-winning actor Charlton Heston to Ambassador Andrew Young to Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy to governors, senators and corporate CEOs. What do these luminaries have in common? Joe Daniell. If he asks, they will come.
At Thursday’s luncheon, folks came to lunch at the Vinings Bank because they wanted to honor this self-effacing man who is much more comfortable behind the scenes than being in the spotlight.
Cobb Chairwoman Lisa Cupid and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell presented Daniell with a proclamation recognizing his many contributions to the county. Marietta Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin delivered a similar proclamation from the city.
Wayne Dodd, representing the office of Congressman Barry Loudermilk, gave Daniell a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in honor of his birthday.
J .K. Murphy, the MDJ’s managing editor, quipped at how many times Joe Daniell calls him with an idea for a story (Hint: It is a lot) as well as his frequent visits to the newsroom and “awarded” him a reporter’s notebook and a Number Two pencil.
When it was my turn, I mentioned that the man is so well-known he once appeared on the balcony at the Vatican with the Pope, causing the crowd below to wonder who the guy was in the white robe standing next to Joe Daniell. Much to my relief, it got a laugh from the audience,. Nothing like bombing in front of a group of movers-and-shakers.
Perhaps the highlight of the lunch was Vinings Bank president Clark Hungerford’s gift from fellow employees in which each employee was asked to describe Daniell in one word. Those words were then etched into wood in the form of a cross. Goosebump stuff.
It was a fitting tribute to a modest man who richly deserves it and who seemed a bit uncomfortable at the fuss being made over him. I suspect he was ready for all the hoopla to be over so he could get back to his next civic endeavor.
The ancient Greek Sophocles observed, “To be doing good deeds is man's most glorious task.” That is Joe Daniell. No one does it better.