September 28, 2021

William J. Powell – Founder of Clearview Golf Club & Integrated Golf

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived an African American man named William J. Powell who became the founded the Clearview Golf Club when no other golf club accepted Black people.


Early Life and Education

William James Powell, also known as Bill by many, was born in Greenville, Butler County, Alabama on November 22, 1918 to Berry C. Powell and Mathilina Simpson (Powell).

As a child, he lived in Rocky Creek, Alabama on a farm. His father was a farmer, and he had two brothers named Berry and Demsy and three sisters, Mary, Vivian K and Rose. At the age of 12, he and his family had already moved to Minerva, Ohio where he attended school and they lived in a home. His father worked on the steam railroad as a laborer [1]

In his early 20s, he worked as a janitor while still at his parents house, having graduated from Minerva high school years earlier. He was one of three African American players on the football team, and one of two African Americans in his own classroom.[2] It was here where he also became interested in the sport golf. The problem was that the golf courses were segregated. They basically didn’t cater to black people, therefore, William decided to build his own. His golf course would be different from the rest. It would be integrated, a place for all races to enjoy the sport of golf.

Clearview Golf Club

It was in 1946 that he went to his older brother and two doctors and borrowed finances from them in order to get his project started. Only two years later, he opened the Clearview Golf Club after purchasing farmland. It wasn’t huge, but it was an awesome nine hole course made for everyone of all races. Then came the racist attacks.

Not many people were aware of the newfound Clearview Golf Club, but those who did loved it, both black and white. However, when racists got wind of it, they began to taunt him and the club as “the n**ger nine”.[3] This type of ridicule continued all the way through 1978, which was 30 years after he founded Clearview and added nine addition holes, making the course a much larger 18 hole integrated golf course for all to enjoy.

Although Clearview Golf Club was a great feat against racism in American sports and in America itself, it wasn’t welcomed by most white people as they were the majority who played the sport at the time. Therefore, there was a consistent struggle for Powell to keep the golf club open due to low finances. However, he did. He never gave up.

William J. Powell became the man who forced American sports in the way of true freedom for all by opening his own golf club with is own rules that didn’t include racism.

Honors

William J. Powell received the highest award from the Professional Golf Association – the Distinguished Service Award. Along with this honor, he was:

  • inducted into the Northern Ohio PGA Hall of Fame.
  • named Person of the Year by the Ohio Golf Course Owners Association with recognition by President Barack Obama and George W. Bush

Death

Powell passed away on December 31 of 2009 and was buried in East Lawn Cemetery in Minerva, Ohio. He left behind a great legacy, his daughter, who is one of the few professional African American female golfers named Renee Powell, his son William and spouse Marcella Powell.


Sources

[1] Year: 1930; Census Place: Minerva, Carroll, Ohio; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0003; FHL microfilm: 2341486

[2]Year: 1930; Census Place: Minerva, Carroll, Ohio; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0003; FHL microfilm: 2341486

[3]The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) 08 Jan 2010, Fri Page A7