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Black Golf Pioneer Passes Away
William Powell, the only African-American to build, own and operate a golf course, died Thursday afternoon at Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio, following complications from a stroke. He was 93.
The grandson of Alabama slaves, Powell earned the rank of Technical Sergeant in the U.S. Eighth Air Force Truck Battalion in World War II. During his time in the service he played golf throughout Great Britain.
After the war, he returned home to Canton and built Clearview Golf Club as a monument to opening doors of opportunity after he had been denied so many pathways to equality throughout his life. Powell worked 18-hour days to both support his family and build Clearview. Denied a G.I. Loan, Powell got funding for the project from two African-American physicians in Ohio, while his brother took out a second mortgage on his home.
Powell virtually hand-built Clearview Golf Club out of former dairy farmland in the fall of 1946. The course opened its initial nine holes in 1948. Over the intervening years he helped break down racial barriers without fanfare by developing women and youth golf leagues. Powell eventually repaid his benefactors to gain full ownership, and an additional nine holes was completed in 1978.
Clearview Golf Club is on the National Register of Historic Places, and nicknamed "America's Course." It is a piece of property, said Powell, where "the only color that matters is the color of the greens."
During Clearview's 50th anniversary, Powell reflected upon his creation in his 2000 autobiography, "Clearview: America's Course":
"I didn't build this course for any of the recognition," he wrote. "It was a labor of love. Golf is a part of society and I wanted to be included. I want you to be included, too. I've always felt that each individual should leave something behind of meaning. It feels good to know that I have done that with Clearview, at long last."
In 2009, Powell celebrated what he called "the best year of my life." The year was filled with tributes, including his receiving in August the PGA Distinguished Service Award, the association's highest annual honor. In November, Powell was inducted into the Northern Ohio PGA Hall of Fame; was named Person of the Year by the Ohio Golf Course Owners Association, and the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce presented the Powell family its Community Salute Award.
After his induction in the Northern Ohio PGA Hall of Fame, Powell said: "I hope that I have created more awareness about what Clearview is all about. We have had many people come to visit us, including some from Canada. They now know who we are. I watched on TV golf being played in Shanghai, China, and I do believe that the game of golf is the best vehicle to rid hate in the world."
"Bill Powell will forever be one of golf's most unforgettable American heroes," said PGA of America President Jim Remy. "Bill made us appreciate the game and each other that much more by his gentle, yet firm example. He was born with a fire within his heart to build on his dream. In the process, he made golf a beacon for people of all color. The PGA of America is better today because of individuals like Bill Powell. We will miss him dearly. We extend our thoughts and prayers to his family as we remember a wonderful man."
Powell was preceded in death by his wife, Marcella, and a son, William. He is survived by his daughter, Renee, a PGA/LPGA professional and the second African-American to compete on the LPGA Tour; a son, Larry, who has served for more than 30 years as superintendent at Clearview Golf Club; and twin sisters Mary Alice Walker of Akron, Ohio, and Rose Marie Mathews of Minerva, Ohio.
Funeral arrangements for Powell have not been announced. In lieu of flowers, donations should be directed to the Clearview Legacy Foundation for Education, Preservation and Research, a 501(c) 3 charitable foundation that will help perpetuate Mr. Powell's vision for America's Course. The Foundation's address is P.O. Box 30196, East Canton, OH 44730. For further information, visit www.clearview-gc.com or call 330/488-0404.
The above story is courtesy of the PGA of America. For the full article, visit http://www.pga.com/2009/news/pga/12/31/powellw_obit/.