Remembering Dr. C. Clayton Powell, Sr.

A message from ASCO President, Dr. John Flanagan:

On Sunday, November 8, I had the honor of representing ASCO, at the invitation of the National Optometric Association, during a celebration, “Honoring an Icon in Optometry Dr. C. Clayton Powell, Sr.” It was a wonderful, heartwarming celebration of an amazing life. The following is the eulogy I offered on ASCO’s behalf.

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On behalf of all the Deans and Presidents of the Schools and Colleges of Optometry, and all the faculty, staff and students we represent, I offer sincere condolences to all of our friends and partners at the National Optometric Association and to the family and friends of Dr. C. Clayton Powell. We are greatly saddened at Dr. Powell’s passing, he touched many of us in ways both profound and serious, but also of joy and life.

On a personal note I have fond memories of spending an evening with Dr. Powell when NOA met on the Berkeley campus in early October 2014.  We sat together at dinner and chatted enthusiastically. We exchanged stories of our mentors, our motivations, and our activism. I particularly remember him proudly telling me, with a twinkle in his expressive eyes, about how he beat his friend and classmate at both Booker T. Washington High School and later at Morehouse College, to become high school President. That friend was Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

What a giant we have lost.

And with his old friend in mind I thought it appropriate to recall Benjamin E. Mays, President of Morehouse College, from his Eulogy to Dr. King on April 9th 1968. He quoted poet Robert Browning, and it seemed so appropriate for our friend and colleague Dr. Clayton Powell Sr.

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted the clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

Dr. Powell influenced generations of optometrists; we wish him a peaceful rest.