Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Two Black Men Named Powell Who Crossed Party Lines On Presidential Endorsements

Former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell (above), a Republican, has endorsed Barack Obama for President.

General Powell is not the first well-known black man named Powell to cross party lines with a Presidential endorsement.

In 1956 Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a Democrat, endorsed President Dwight Eisenhower over Democratic challenger Adlai Stevenson. (The first link in the sentence is to a good essay on the A.C. Powell endorsement. It provides a sense of Mr. Powell and some context for his endorsement of Eisenhower.)

This is the Texas Liberal Election Fact of the Day.

A strong book about Adam Clayton Powell (below) is Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma by Charles V. Hamilton.

Governor Stevenson, despite a reputation as a so-called liberal, had a poor record on Civil Rights. Mr. Stevenson had the support of many in the Dixiecrat wing of the Democratic Party, and often seemed more concerned with that support instead of making progress on issues of racial justice.

A good book about the silence on questions of Civil Rights by many leading political and literary figures of the mid-20th century, is Divided Minds by Indiana University professor Carol Polsgrove.

Adam Clayton Powell is a figure worth study. He was a strong advocate for Civil Rights and a greatly flawed figure at the same time. He had both legislative success and an inability to keep himself out of trouble. Few people could be both so right and so wrong at one time.

Mr. Powell served in Congress 1945-1971. Seemingly past his day, he was defeated in the 1970 Democratic primary by Charles Rangel. Mr. Rangel still serves in Congress and has had some problems of his own in recent months.

October 19, 2008 - Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, Election Fact Of The Day, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Endorsements made this late in the process are self serving. Where was powell in the primaries? he lost his reputation in my eyes when he was on the bush team when we went to war. he still stands by they thought they had the right info. at the time and it was not a lie. it was a lie a big fucking lie that has cost lives. unstablized the world and its economy and the would will now pay for these lies.

    Comment by bill brady | October 20, 2008

  2. The Obama people held the endorsement until it would have had the most impact. This made the story for today, just 16 days before the election, the Powell endorsement which is good for Obama.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | October 20, 2008

  3. My favorite moment in the Powell endorsement was when he said, “He’s not a Muslim but so what if he was? You can be a Muslim and a patriotic American.” It’s the first time in this entire campaign I’ve heard a public figure say that.

    Comment by Julie | October 20, 2008

  4. Yes–I had been waiting for someone to say that as well.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | October 21, 2008

  5. Nice piece. I remember Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., well – also his wife, jazz singer Hazel Scott. Your assessment of him is right on.

    Comment by Newton | October 21, 2008

  6. Newton–Thanks for this nice comment.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | October 22, 2008

  7. Excellent piece! Your site is always relevant, reasoned and well thought out.

    I find it astonishing that the RNC has strayed so far from the path they at one time adhered to…and they think it’s “normal”.

    Kindest Regards,


    Comment by michelle2005 | October 24, 2008

  8. Michelle–Thanks for your kind comments.

    Hopefully a new day will be here soon.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | October 24, 2008

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