Ordinary Black American Didn’t Set Out to Change the World, But Did

Ordinary Black American Didn’t Set Out to Change the World, But Did

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Bill Powell-golf-desegregationist-youtube

On the last day of February, we want to take you beyond the stars of Black History Month–Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Frederick Douglas–to tell you about an extraordinary individual from Canton, Ohio who never set out to change history but did just that.

Born 100 years ago, Bill Powell faced a lot of prejudice in America and saw a lot of “Whites Only” signs. But when his country needed him during World War II, he enlisted to serve.

His passion in life was the game of golf–and even started a golf team at school, for which he was the coach. When he returned to Ohio after serving overseas, where he played the game during leisure hours, he was not permitted to play on America’s segregated golf courses. He wanted to become a professional golfer, but the PGA had a “caucasian clause”.

So with quiet determination, and a dream to break barriers, Powell decided to build his own golf course.

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Buying 78 acres of farmland in East Canton, Ohio in 1946, he began clearing the land, and seeding the first nine holes by hand, walking back and forth over the land, on fairways and greens he’d designed in his head. Two years later, Clearview Golf Course opened as the only golf course in America to be owned and operated by an African-American.

Bill Powell-golf-1940s family photo

All races were welcome to play there, of course, because he despised segregation. The public course, expanded to 18 holes 30 years later, eventually became a designated National Historic Site.

Helping to break the racial barrier in golf, Powell was given a PGA Life Memberhip and the 2009 PGA of America Distinguished Service Award.

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He passed away at age 93 seven years ago, but his legacy continues today as his son Larry and daughter Renee, who is a professional golfer and ground-breaker in her own right, still operate the family business.

Powell (1916-2009) was able to change attitudes in Ohio and across the country because for him, golf was “more than a game.”  Golf was a way to touch people’s lives and impact the future. This year marks the 70th anniversary of what has become known as “America’s Course”, where the only color that mattered – and still matters – is the color of the greens.

You can donate to the family‘s foundation to maintain the facilities and educational programs for future generations.

(WATCH the inspiring video below)

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