The USGA Museum is celebrating the achievements of Bill Powell, PGA and other African Americans who’s passion for the great game of golf has left lasting legacies in our Society in an exhibit entitled “More Than A Game”. This exhibit has been extended through January 2016.
Posted Courtesy: USGA Museum
The history of the African-American golf experience is filled with men and women whose passion for the game transcended many obstacles placed before them during periods of significant social injustice. The USGA Museum’s “More Than A Game” exhibit seeks to celebrate their achievements and involvement with golf courses and their important legacies to African-American society. The men and women who played on, designed, built and ran these golf courses, along with many of their contemporaries; overcame numerous challenges on their way to realizing equality on the green.
From its inception in 1946 to the present, Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio, is the only public golf course in the United States designed, built and owned by an African American. Its existence is a testimonial to the vision, accomplishments, pride and integrity of one individual, William “Bill” Powell, and his family in overcoming the numerous obstacles and pervasive discrimination faced by people of color in America
Powell grew up in Minerva, Ohio of the only African-American family in the small town. At the age of nine he began playing and caddying at the golf course which was being built in his hometown. He developed a passion for the game and later captained both the golf and football teams at Minerva High School. Although he played golf in high school at various golf courses, both private and public – he found that after graduation he was not welcome at those same area golf courses, simply because of the color of his skin.
When WWII broke out, Bill was sent to the European theatre. While serving in Scotland and England, he was able to play golf during occasional days off. After returning home from the war, Bill found that even as a WWII veteran he still was not welcome at local golf courses. He set out to do what he felt was the only thing he could do: build a golf course so that others regardless of the color of their, race, nationality or religion would not have to suffer the same indignities that he did in his own country.
In order to start the project he needed land and money. When he went to the bank he was denied a GI loan; his white counterparts returning home from WWII had no such problems. He became even more determined to make a change – he taught two African-American doctors to play the game and they, along with Bill’s brother Berry, put in the money so that Bill could buy a plot of land along the Lincoln Highway. The land was an old dairy farm, but he saw the incredible potential for a beautiful golf course, which he literally began to build from the day he moved in with the family. So in 1946 as he began building Clearview, he also held down a full-time job in order to support his wife and children.
Powell’s family has also been an integral part of Clearview’s legacy. His wife of 56 years, Marcella, chaired the UGA Junior Committee at both the state and national level and ran Clearview’s clubhouse until her death in 1996. Their children continue to work at the club, fostering the ideals set forth by Bill and Marcella. Renee was the second African-American member of the LPGA Tour and currently serves as the head golf professional at Clearview. Larry, who started cutting grass at the course at age 8, is now the course superintendent. In 2001, the Clearview Legacy Foundation was established to preserve the course for future generations, to develop improved facilities for teaching the game of golf, and to expand turfgrass research.
William “Bill” Powell passed away on December 31, 2009 at the age of 93. The great-grandson of Alabama slaves left a legacy that still exists today.
“I didn’t build this course for any of the recognition,” Powell said in his autobiography, Clearview: America’s Course. “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.”
Clearview Golf Club
Clearview Legacy Foundation
8410 Lincoln Street
PO Box 30196
East Canton, OH 44730