Monday, November 22, 2010
William J. Powell (November 22, 1916 – December 31, 2009) was the first African American to design, construct and own a professional golf course in the United States. Powell was fond of saying "The only color that matters is the color of the greens".
Powell was the grandson of Alabama slaves and was born in Greenville, Alabama. During his youth moved with his family to Minerva, Ohio. In high school there, he played golf and football. Later, at the state's historically African-American Wilberforce University, he played on the golf team.
Read more about William J. Powell, free from the Ohio State University.
After serving in the United States Army Air Forces in World War II in England, he returned to the Canton, Ohio-area near Minerva in 1946, and began work first as a janitor and later as a security guard for the Timken bearing and steel company. Due to racial segregation, he was banned from all-white public golf courses and was rejected for a bank loan to try to build his own. With financing from two African-American doctors and a loan from his brother, Powell bought a 78-acre dairy farm in East Canton, Ohio, and with his wife, Marcella, did most of the landscaping by hand. Two years later, in 1948, he opened the integrated Clearview Golf Club. In 1978, he expanded the course to 18 holes and earned a national-historic-site designation in 2001.
As of the 2000s, Clearview is the only course in the United States designed, constructed, owned and operated by an African American.
Powell died in Canton, Ohio, following complications from a stroke.
Awards and honors
In 2001, the United States Department of the Interior added Clearview Golf Course to the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1996, Powell was inducted into the National Black Golf Hall of Fame. He also received honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from his alma mater, and from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.
In 2009, Powell was named the recipient of the 2009 PGA Distinguished Service Award by the Professional Golfers Association and was honored in conjunction with the 91st PGA Championship.