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Clayton Powell to Congress - History

Clayton Powell to Congress - History


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Adam Clayton Powell was elected to the United States House of Representatives, becoming the first Black from the North East elected to the House. Powell was the son of a Harlem minister. He was educated at Colgate Univesity and became a minister and active campaigner for Black Rights. Powell remained in Congress until 1970, when he was defeated by Charles Rangel.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (November 29, 1908 – April 4, 1972) [1] was an American Baptist pastor and politician who represented the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in the United States House of Representatives from 1945 until 1971. He was the first African-American to be elected to Congress from New York, as well as the first from any state in the Northeast. [2] Re-elected for nearly three decades, Powell became a powerful national politician of the Democratic Party, and served as a national spokesman on civil rights and social issues. He also urged United States presidents to support emerging nations in Africa and Asia as they gained independence after colonialism.

In 1961, after 16 years in the House, Powell became chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, the most powerful position held by an African American in Congress. As chairman, he supported the passage of important social and civil rights legislation under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Following allegations of corruption, in 1967 Powell was excluded from his seat by Democratic Representatives-elect of the 90th United States Congress, but he was re-elected and regained the seat in the 1969 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States in Powell v. McCormack. He lost his seat in 1970 to Charles Rangel and retired from electoral politics.


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When Congress convened in 1967, Powell’s misuse of congressional funds, criminal contempt in a slander case and erratic attendance, led the House Democratic Caucus to strip him of his chairmanship. The full House then refused to seat him until the Judiciary Committee had completed an investigation of the allegations against him. (Powell urged his supporters to “keep the faith, baby,” while the investigation proceeded.)

The committee ultimately recommended that Powell be censured, fined and deprived of his seniority. But the House rejected this verdict, voting 307 to 116, to exclude him. (On being informed of his exclusion, Powell asserted that the vote marked “the end of the United States of America as the land of the free and the home of the brave.”)

In response to his ouster, on this day in 1967, 86 percent of his Harlem-based constituents voted to reelect him.

Because his exclusion suit against Congress was still pending, Powell continued to live in the Bahamas during the election, opting not to take his seat until the next Congress convened. On Jan. 3, 1969, he was seated, while being fined $25,000 and denied seniority. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Powell v. McCormack, that the House had acted unconstitutionally when it had excluded him.

Powell's chronic absenteeism contributed to his defeat in the 1970 Democratic primary to Charles Rangel.


Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr.: The Play

Bruce Chadwick lectures on history and film at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He also teaches writing at New Jersey City University. He holds his PhD from Rutgers and was a former editor for the New York Daily News. Mr. Chadwick can be reached at [email protected]

There is a large photo outside of the Castillo Theater on W. 42d Street in New York, where Peter DeAnda’s new one-man drama Adam, about Adam Clayton Powell Jr., is playing, that shows the longtime, controversial Congressman getting ready to talk to a huge street crowd in Harlem. It is a mesmerizing photo because it caught the popular Powell in the middle of his Harlem flock and at his best. This one single photo reminds everybody of what a charismatic leader Powell was from the 1930s to the 1970s.

The play about him, that just opened, is a nice story about Powell’s achievements in his lifelong battle against racism in which he represented Harlem for nearly three decades in Congress. It is also an interesting look at how the public perceives its Congressmen.

The story is appropriately set on a beach on the island of Bimini, in the Bahamas, where Powell, a fishing fanatic, spent much of his time. The Reverend is seated in a beach chair, fishing cap on his head, sunglasses on his nose and hands on a fishing pole. From his beach chair he goes back through time to tell his story in a favorable way.

Powell became the minister of a large church in Harlem and then plunged into politics. He led marches, demonstrations and strikes in the 1930s to get more African Americans hired in stores and hospitals, fought for better education and public housing for blacks and built a large base following in Harlem. The charismatic, handsome community organizer was elected to the New York City Council in 1941 and went to Congress as one of its first blacks for the first time (he served through 1970). There he fought for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations' Civil Rights programs.

The play is full of solid history and takes the audience all the way back to the start of the Depression when Powell and others served as the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement, which did not gain full strength until thirty years later. You learn much about the role, and importance, of the minister in African American neighborhoods, the battles between community leaders and city officials and the power of the mass demonstration. You learn much about the street politics of New York City in the 1930s and 1940s, too.

It is a good story, but not really a complete one.

What always annoyed people about Powell was his cavalier attitude, frequent absences from Congress, rumors of infidelity, three wives, long travels at government expense, sometimes with young women other than his wife at the time, irreverence toward Congress and his determination to turn every one of the scandals in which he found himself involved into conspiracies to victimize him for being a liberal and being black.

He was also a political maverick. He did not maintain close ties to his party, the Democrats, and often feuded with other leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. He broke party ranks and campaigned for Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, infuriating the Democrats.

The problem with Adam is that the playwright ignores this well-known history. He glosses over a lot of the troubles in the life of the Congressman. He is portrayed as a distinguished minister, a righteous man of the cloth and public servant who was unfairly victimized all of his life and ignores the fact that the Congressman created his own problems.

Powell’s extravagant playboy life finally caught up to him in the late 1960s when Congress, fed up with his parties, womanizing, travels at government expense and maverick politics brought him up on charges and censured him (the vote was 307 to 116). He was booted out of Congress.

It was at this time, pleading innocent to all charges, that Powell developed his famous line to his followers, “keep the faith, baby.”

He ran for his old seat in a special election and his Harlem constituents, who loved him no matter what happened, returned him to Congress with an astonishing 85% of the vote. He then sued the government, won and went back to Congress a year later. Congress was not finished with him, though. He lost his seniority and his chairmanship of the Education and Labor Committee. Added to all of that was the case of Yvette Diago, his third wife. She was a paid employee of his but lived for six years in Puerto Rico, reportedly not doing any work for his office. It was a classic case of an alleged no-show job and helped to end to his career. He lost the 1970 election and retired, dying two years later.

The story that is told, despite its omissions, is a good one, full of history and information about one of the well-known figures of the Civil Rights movement. It just needs to fill in the holes.

Director Ajene D. Washington gets a solid performance from Timothy Simonson. He is tentative as Powell at the start of the play, but by the middle of it is impressive, especially when he preaches sermons as Powell the minister, which drew a roar from the crowd.

So, in the end, who was Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a saint or a sinner?

His place in history will always be a bit cloudy, but as he always asked people to do, keep the faith, baby, keep the faith…

PRODUCTION: The play is produced by the New Federal Theatre at the Castillo Theater. Sets: Chris Cumberbatch, Costumes: Katy Roberson, Lighting: Antoinette Tynes, Sound: Bill Toles. The play is directed by Ajene D. Washington. It runs through March 19.


Freedom Rides

CORE’s national director, James Farmer, organized the Freedom Rides in the spring of 1961, with a mission of testing two Supreme Court rulings, according to The New York Times: Boynton v. Virginia, which desegregated bathrooms, waiting rooms and lunch counters, and Morgan v. Virginia, which desegregated interstate buses and trains.

“The Freedom Rides took place as the Civil Rights movement was gathering momentum, and during a period in which African-Americans were routinely harassed and subjected to segregation in the Jim Crow South,” the Times reports.

Thirteen Black and white women and men took part in the original Freedom Ride, heading south from Washington, D.C., including future civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis.

According to the Global Nonviolent Action Database, the volunteers received intensive training. 𠇊s an interracial group their intention was to sit wherever they wanted on buses and trains as well as to demand unrestricted access to terminal restaurants and waiting rooms,” it states.

The movement and participants grew, as did arrests, mob violence and police brutality.

King was in support of the Freedom Rides, but didn’t participate personally because of the danger involved.

“In Anniston, Alabama, one bus was firebombed, and its fleeing passengers were forced into an angry white mob,” the King Institute writes. 𠇊s the violence against the Freedom Rides increased, CORE considered halting the project. A Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee was formed by representatives of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, CORE, and SCLC to sustain the rides.”

The attacks were widely reported on by the media, but, according to the Times, they caused Farmer to end the campaign: “The Freedom Riders finished their journey to New Orleans by plane.”

But the efforts and nationwide attention did help bring change. On Sept. 22, 1961, Attorney General Robert Kennedy ordered the Interstate Commerce Commission to end interstate bus terminal segregation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, ending segregation in public places nationwide, was passed three years later.

Following the Freedom Rides, CORE concentrated on voter registration and co-sponsored the March on Washington in 1963, where King famously delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.


Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: A Flawed Hero for Civil Rights

From 1901 to 1929, no black people served in Congress, and from 1929 to 1945 only one member of Congress was black. The three men who represented that majority black Chicago district, Republican Oscar De Priest and Democrats Arthur Mitchell and William Dawson, were all men closely tied with political machines. Mitchell and Dawson themselves had once been Republicans and proteges of De Priest. While all of them did help civil rights in their own ways, none of them provided the challenge to Jim Crow like Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

Elected in 1944, Powell (1908-1972), a Baptist minister, made his presence known in Congress from the very start when he routinely challenged Southern lawmakers. He would repeatedly, for instance, try to sit as close as possible to John Rankin (D-Miss.), the chamber’s most outspoken racist and anti-Semite. Rankin, who had vowed not to sit next to blacks, would move in response. In one instance, the two men moved seats five times. Powell also challenged Rankin’s use of the word “nigger” on the House floor, which was supportive to the morale of black voters across the nation. He also successfully challenged the informal “whites only” policy of the House restaurant, which in practice would only serve blacks if they also happened to be members of Congress.

Starting in 1946, Powell would offer his “Powell Amendments” to federal legislation on education, which would prohibit aid to be extended to segregated schools. One of two outcomes would result from its attachment to education legislation: 1. The education bill would be defeated as Southern legislators would unify against it. 2. The amendment’s meaning would be completely gutted in a conference committee. Powell’s efforts on this matter were often not appreciated by advocates for federal education – in one instance, one its supporters, Cleve Bailey (D-W.V.), grew so enraged he punched him in the jaw. A form of the Powell Amendment would become Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applied to government programs generally.

On the issues Powell was a staunch leftist. While supporting the Fair Deal to the hilt, he objected to Truman’s anti-communist program, including on foreign policy, placing him ideologically with supporters of Henry Wallace’s 1948 run for president. In 1951, he and the chamber’s other black member, William Dawson (D-Ill.), managed to kill an effort to construct a veterans hospital that would only admit black people on the grounds that it was a perpetuation of Jim Crow. He again proved himself independent when in 1956 he endorsed Dwight Eisenhower for president because he regarded the Republican Party’s civil rights plank as superior to the Democratic plank that year. In 1958, he survived a Tammany Hall effort to defeat him in the Democratic primary. Despite his bucking of his party’s establishment, sometimes he came to its defense. In 1960, Martin Luther King Jr. planned to hold a march at the Democratic National Convention, and Powell threatened to tell the press of a homosexual affair between him and Bayard Rustin if he did not call it off. Powell was successful, and despite this little incident, King considered him an ally in the struggle for civil rights.

In 1961, Labor and Education Committee chairman Graham Barden (D-N.C.), a conservative segregationist, retired. While the ironclad seniority system of the time tended to benefit Southern Democrats like Barden, this time it benefited Powell, who became chair. As chair, he was a staunch supporter of the agendas of the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations on education. Powell came to the height of his power during the Great Society Congress, when he steered many Great Society bills to passage, as much of the legislation originated in his committee, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as well as an increase in the minimum wage. However, his ethics and absenteeism issues were catching up to him.

In 1958, he was indicted for income tax evasion and his trial had resulted in a hung jury. In 1963, a court ruled that he had committed slander against a constituent for alleging she was a “bag woman”, a courier for transferring money between politicians and racketeers. For failing to pay the court’s judgment he was subject to civil arrest in the state of New York. Since civil arrest orders couldn’t be served on Sundays, Powell only came to visit his district on Sundays. In 1967, it was discovered that he had been keeping his third wife on his payroll for six years and gave her a pay raise without her performing any work. Powell also often didn’t show for votes as he would regularly go on trips abroad at taxpayer expense or spend significant periods of time at his vacation home in Bimini. This absenteeism annoyed his constituency as did his abstention from the vote on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as he didn’t think it strong enough.

In 1967, the House voted not to seat him after an investigation of his conduct revealed numerous ethics violations, and he was excluded for the 90 th Congress. Powell challenged this exclusion in the Supreme Court and in the meantime became more strident in his views – less than two weeks before Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, he renounced non-violence and embraced the Black Power Movement. In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled his exclusion from Congress unconstitutional in Powell v. McCormack (1969), so he was seated in the 91 st Congress, but with a fine and a loss of seniority. Although Powell had survived a challenge from Congress in the Supreme Court, his victory didn’t last: he lost by 200 votes in the 1970 Democratic primary as his constituents had turned him out in favor of Charles Rangel. To make matters worse for Powell, he was already ill with prostate cancer and his condition worsened after his defeat. He spent most of his remaining days in Bimini and died on April 4, 1972, aged 63.

Powell for many black Americans was a hero for his efforts on behalf of civil rights, but he was like the heroes of Ancient Greece in that he was a fatally flawed figure, and his flaws brought about his political downfall.

Powell Rebuffed in Court Fight Here. (1964, December 5). The New York Times.

Powell, Adam Clayton, Jr. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.

The Mixed Legacy of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (2016, February 15). The Arthur Ashe Legacy.


Contents

Powell Foulk Clayton was born in Bethel Township, Pennsylvania, [2] to John and Ann (Clarke) Clayton. [3] The Clayton family was descended from early Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania. Clayton's ancestor William Clayton emigrated from Chichester, England, was a personal friend and associate of William Penn as well as one of nine justices who sat at the Upland Court in 1681. [4]

Clayton attended the Forwood School in Wilmington, Delaware [5] and the Pennsylvania Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy in Bristol, Pennsylvania. [2] He later studied civil engineering in Wilmington. In 1855, he moved to Kansas to work as a surveyor. He speculated in land in Kansas and entered politics when he successfully ran for the office of city engineer in Leavenworth in either 1859 [3] or 1860. [2]

In May 1861 Clayton was formally mustered into the U.S. Volunteers as a captain of Company E in the 1st Kansas Infantry. During the war he served primarily in Arkansas and Missouri and fought in several battles in those states. In August 1861, Clayton received a commendation for his leadership when his unit saw action in the Battle of Wilson's Creek in Missouri. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 5th Kansas Cavalry in December 1861 and to colonel in March 1862. [6]

At the Battle of Helena in Arkansas on July 4, 1863, Clayton was in charge of the cavalry brigade on the right flank of the Union forces. He received commendations for his actions during the battle. In August and September 1863, Clayton's regiment accompanied Major General Frederick Steele's troops in the campaign against Little Rock. [2]

In October 1863, Clayton commanded federal troops occupying Pine Bluff, Arkansas using the Boone-Murphy House as his headquarters. [7] During the Battle of Pine Bluff, he successfully repulsed a three-pronged Confederate attack of the forces of Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke. During the battle, his troops piled cotton bales around the Jefferson County Courthouse and surrounding streets to make a barricade for the Union defenders. [8] He also made several forays around Little Rock including to support Steele during the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864. [2]

Clayton was idolized by his men and respected by his enemies. John Edwards, a Confederate officer in Joseph O. Shelby's command wrote: "Colonel Clayton was an officer of activity and enterprise, clear-headed, quick to conceive, and bold and rapid to execute. His success in the field has caused him. to be considered the ablest Federal commander of Cavalry west of the Mississippi." [9]

Clayton was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers on August 1, 1864. When he was mustered out of the service in August 1865, he commanded the cavalry division of the Seventh Army Corps. While still in command at Pine Bluff, Clayton invested in cotton and acquired enough funds to purchase a plantation in Jefferson County, Arkansas where he resided after the war. [10]

After the war, Clayton became a Companion of the First Class of the Missouri Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. [11]

Governor of Arkansas: 1868–1871 Edit

In 1867, Clayton participated in the formation of the Arkansas Republican party. He entered Arkansas politics due his belief that Unionists needed additional protection after several confrontations with ex-Rebels on his plantation. [2]

In 1866, Democrats took control of the state legislature and nominated two U.S. Senators. However, the Republican-controlled Congress refused to seat them. In March 1867, Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 declaring the governments of Arkansas and nine other former Confederate states illegal and requiring those states to adopt new constitutions providing civil rights to freedmen. Military rule was established across the South during Congressional Reconstruction. General Edward Ord was appointed military governor of the Fourth Military District which included Arkansas. The Arkansas legislature was disbanded and Ord called for a constitutional convention. [10]

Most of the delegates to the 1868 constitutional convention were Republican since few Democrats could take the "ironclad oath" that they had not served in the Confederacy or provided aid or comfort to the enemy. Although Clayton was not a delegate to the constitutional convention, he did participate in the Republican state nominating convention which was meeting at the same time. Clayton was selected as the Republican gubernatorial nominee and James M. Johnson as the candidate for lieutenant governor. [12]

The ratification of the 1868 constitution, providing civil rights and the vote to freedmen, produced a furor among Democrats, who adhered to white supremacist beliefs. That Spring the Ku Klux Klan arose in Arkansas, and was responsible for more than 200 murders leading up to the 1868 election. [13]

On April 1, 1868, the state board of election commissioners announced ratification of the constitution and Clayton's election as Governor of Arkansas. Congress accepted the Arkansas constitution of 1868 as legal. Democratic President Andrew Johnson vetoed it, but the Republican-dominated Congress was able to override his veto. The state was readmitted to representation in Congress when Clayton was inaugurated as Governor on July 2, 1868. The new legislature unanimously accepted the Fourteenth Amendment and Congress declared Arkansas reconstructed. [14]

As governor, Clayton faced fierce opposition from the state's conservative political leaders and violence against blacks and members of the Republican party led by the Ku Klux Klan. During this time Arkansas Republican Congressman James Hinds was attacked and killed while on his way to a political event [15] and Clayton survived an attempt on his life. Clayton responded aggressively to the emergence of the Klan in Arkansas by declaring martial law in fourteen counties for four months in late 1868 and early 1869. [13] Clayton organized the state militia and placed General Daniel Phillips Upham in charge to help suppress violence throughout the state. [16]

During his three-year term as governor, Clayton and the Republicans in the legislature were able to pass many laws to improve Arkansas. State bonds were issued to fund the construction of several railroads throughout the state. The first ever free public school system in Arkansas was installed during Clayton's governorship. The Clayton administration also formed the Arkansas Industrial University, the Arkansas School for the Deaf and the relocation of the Arkansas School for the Blind. [2]

Brooks-Baxter War Edit

During Clayton's Reconstruction governorship, the Arkansas Republican party splintered in the face of serious opposition from conservatives. [17] Clayton and his supporters were known locally as "Minstrels", they dominated the Republican party and were able to secure recognition from the National Republican organization and control the federal patronage in the state. This position garnered Clayton few friends at the state Republican party level and he faced repeated challenges to his leadership. [2] The affair has become known as the Brooks-Baxter War. [18]

In 1868, Joseph Brooks who had been a partner with Clayton in the formation of the Arkansas Republican party, broke with Clayton and formed a faction known as the "Brindletails". Brooks' opposition to Clayton developed partly due to Clayton's increasingly moderate stance toward ex-Confederates but also due to Clayton's displacement of Brooks as leader of the Arkansas Republican party. [2]

In 1869, Lieutenant Governor James M. Johnson charged Clayton with corruption in the issuance of railroad bonds and misuse of power in his program to suppress violence. The supporters of Johnson, mostly white Republicans from Northwest Arkansas called themselves Liberal Republicans. The Brindletails impeached Clayton in 1871 however, the legislature never heard the case against him and he withstood the challenge. [2]

U.S. Senator: 1871–1877 Edit

In January 1871, the Arkansas legislature elected Clayton to the United States Senate which initiated another controversy of Clayton's administration. Clayton did not want to accept the Senate seat and have his political opponent and lieutenant governor James M. Johnson succeed him as governor. Instead, Clayton refused the Senate position and negotiated Johnson's appointment as Secretary of State of Arkansas and replaced Johnson with Ozra Hadley. In March 1871, the legislature again elected Clayton to the U.S. Senate which he accepted this time. [17]

He served as chairman on the Committee on Enrolled Bills and on the Committee on Civil Service Retrenchment. [19]

In January 1872, the U.S. Senate Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of the Late Insurrectionary States heard testimony raising questions about Clayton's behavior and integrity as governor. A United States district attorney testified that in April 1871, after Clayton became U.S. Senator, a grand jury had indicted him on charges that as governor Clayton issued fraudulent election credentials for the U.S. House of Representatives election to John Edwards. [17]

In response to these allegations, Clayton contended that in eight precincts, there had been two separate sets of polls. One set was overseen by authorized judges and the other under the unauthorized control of opposing political factions. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the legal election had been held at the authorized polling places and that returns from the others were fraudulent. As governor, Clayton discarded the returns from the fraudulent polling places and certified the candidate who won from the genuine votes. The opposing candidate, Thomas Boles, contested the election and replaced John Edwards in the U.S. House of Representatives in February 1872. [17]

The committee judged the issue to be beyond its jurisdiction and turned the matter over to the Senate. At Clayton's request, the Senate appointed a special three-member committee to investigate the charges. In June 1872, after interviewing thirty-eight witnesses and generating five thousand pages of transcript, the committee issued a partial report indicating that the testimony appeared to not sustain the charges against Clayton. The committee noted that the charges came from Clayton's bitter political rivals and that the indictment against Clayton had been dropped due to lack of evidence. However, the committee members stated that they required additional time and would issue a final report in the next session of the Senate. [17]

In February 1873, the committee issued its final report declaring that the testimony failed to sustain the charges against Clayton and that there was no evidence that he had any fraudulent intent in certifying the election of Edwards as directed by the state supreme court. The Senate voted 33 to 6 to accept the committee's findings. Nine senators, mostly Democrats, abstained from voting on the grounds that they were not given enough time to sufficiently review all of the testimony. [17]

While in the Senate, Clayton appealed to his brother, William H.H. Clayton, the US Attorney in Arkansas, and President Ulysses S. Grant to have Judge Isaac Parker reassigned from Utah to Fort Smith, Arkansas, a frontier area with a high rate of violence and crime. Parker, the legendary "Hanging Judge," along with U.S. Attorney Clayton, are credited with bringing law and order to the region. [20]

In 1877, Clayton lost his Senate seat since the legislature, now dominated by Democrats elected one of their own to the Senate. Clayton moved back to Little Rock, Arkansas where he resumed his law practice and supported economic development. [2]


Contents

Powell Foulk Clayton was born in Bethel Township, Pennsylvania, [2] to John and Ann (Clarke) Clayton. [3] The Clayton family was descended from early Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania. Clayton's ancestor William Clayton emigrated from Chichester, England, was a personal friend and associate of William Penn as well as one of nine justices who sat at the Upland Court in 1681. [4]

Clayton attended the Forwood School in Wilmington, Delaware [5] and the Pennsylvania Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy in Bristol, Pennsylvania. [2] He later studied civil engineering in Wilmington. In 1855, he moved to Kansas to work as a surveyor. He speculated in land in Kansas and entered politics when he successfully ran for the office of city engineer in Leavenworth in either 1859 [3] or 1860. [2]

In May 1861 Clayton was formally mustered into the U.S. Volunteers as a captain of Company E in the 1st Kansas Infantry. During the war he served primarily in Arkansas and Missouri and fought in several battles in those states. In August 1861, Clayton received a commendation for his leadership when his unit saw action in the Battle of Wilson's Creek in Missouri. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 5th Kansas Cavalry in December 1861 and to colonel in March 1862. [6]

At the Battle of Helena in Arkansas on July 4, 1863, Clayton was in charge of the cavalry brigade on the right flank of the Union forces. He received commendations for his actions during the battle. In August and September 1863, Clayton's regiment accompanied Major General Frederick Steele's troops in the campaign against Little Rock. [2]

In October 1863, Clayton commanded federal troops occupying Pine Bluff, Arkansas using the Boone-Murphy House as his headquarters. [7] During the Battle of Pine Bluff, he successfully repulsed a three-pronged Confederate attack of the forces of Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke. During the battle, his troops piled cotton bales around the Jefferson County Courthouse and surrounding streets to make a barricade for the Union defenders. [8] He also made several forays around Little Rock including to support Steele during the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864. [2]

Clayton was idolized by his men and respected by his enemies. John Edwards, a Confederate officer in Joseph O. Shelby's command wrote: "Colonel Clayton was an officer of activity and enterprise, clear-headed, quick to conceive, and bold and rapid to execute. His success in the field has caused him. to be considered the ablest Federal commander of Cavalry west of the Mississippi." [9]

Clayton was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers on August 1, 1864. When he was mustered out of the service in August 1865, he commanded the cavalry division of the Seventh Army Corps. While still in command at Pine Bluff, Clayton invested in cotton and acquired enough funds to purchase a plantation in Jefferson County, Arkansas where he resided after the war. [10]

After the war, Clayton became a Companion of the First Class of the Missouri Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. [11]

Governor of Arkansas: 1868–1871 Edit

In 1867, Clayton participated in the formation of the Arkansas Republican party. He entered Arkansas politics due his belief that Unionists needed additional protection after several confrontations with ex-Rebels on his plantation. [2]

In 1866, Democrats took control of the state legislature and nominated two U.S. Senators. However, the Republican-controlled Congress refused to seat them. In March 1867, Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 declaring the governments of Arkansas and nine other former Confederate states illegal and requiring those states to adopt new constitutions providing civil rights to freedmen. Military rule was established across the South during Congressional Reconstruction. General Edward Ord was appointed military governor of the Fourth Military District which included Arkansas. The Arkansas legislature was disbanded and Ord called for a constitutional convention. [10]

Most of the delegates to the 1868 constitutional convention were Republican since few Democrats could take the "ironclad oath" that they had not served in the Confederacy or provided aid or comfort to the enemy. Although Clayton was not a delegate to the constitutional convention, he did participate in the Republican state nominating convention which was meeting at the same time. Clayton was selected as the Republican gubernatorial nominee and James M. Johnson as the candidate for lieutenant governor. [12]

The ratification of the 1868 constitution, providing civil rights and the vote to freedmen, produced a furor among Democrats, who adhered to white supremacist beliefs. That Spring the Ku Klux Klan arose in Arkansas, and was responsible for more than 200 murders leading up to the 1868 election. [13]

On April 1, 1868, the state board of election commissioners announced ratification of the constitution and Clayton's election as Governor of Arkansas. Congress accepted the Arkansas constitution of 1868 as legal. Democratic President Andrew Johnson vetoed it, but the Republican-dominated Congress was able to override his veto. The state was readmitted to representation in Congress when Clayton was inaugurated as Governor on July 2, 1868. The new legislature unanimously accepted the Fourteenth Amendment and Congress declared Arkansas reconstructed. [14]

As governor, Clayton faced fierce opposition from the state's conservative political leaders and violence against blacks and members of the Republican party led by the Ku Klux Klan. During this time Arkansas Republican Congressman James Hinds was attacked and killed while on his way to a political event [15] and Clayton survived an attempt on his life. Clayton responded aggressively to the emergence of the Klan in Arkansas by declaring martial law in fourteen counties for four months in late 1868 and early 1869. [13] Clayton organized the state militia and placed General Daniel Phillips Upham in charge to help suppress violence throughout the state. [16]

During his three-year term as governor, Clayton and the Republicans in the legislature were able to pass many laws to improve Arkansas. State bonds were issued to fund the construction of several railroads throughout the state. The first ever free public school system in Arkansas was installed during Clayton's governorship. The Clayton administration also formed the Arkansas Industrial University, the Arkansas School for the Deaf and the relocation of the Arkansas School for the Blind. [2]

Brooks-Baxter War Edit

During Clayton's Reconstruction governorship, the Arkansas Republican party splintered in the face of serious opposition from conservatives. [17] Clayton and his supporters were known locally as "Minstrels", they dominated the Republican party and were able to secure recognition from the National Republican organization and control the federal patronage in the state. This position garnered Clayton few friends at the state Republican party level and he faced repeated challenges to his leadership. [2] The affair has become known as the Brooks-Baxter War. [18]

In 1868, Joseph Brooks who had been a partner with Clayton in the formation of the Arkansas Republican party, broke with Clayton and formed a faction known as the "Brindletails". Brooks' opposition to Clayton developed partly due to Clayton's increasingly moderate stance toward ex-Confederates but also due to Clayton's displacement of Brooks as leader of the Arkansas Republican party. [2]

In 1869, Lieutenant Governor James M. Johnson charged Clayton with corruption in the issuance of railroad bonds and misuse of power in his program to suppress violence. The supporters of Johnson, mostly white Republicans from Northwest Arkansas called themselves Liberal Republicans. The Brindletails impeached Clayton in 1871 however, the legislature never heard the case against him and he withstood the challenge. [2]

U.S. Senator: 1871–1877 Edit

In January 1871, the Arkansas legislature elected Clayton to the United States Senate which initiated another controversy of Clayton's administration. Clayton did not want to accept the Senate seat and have his political opponent and lieutenant governor James M. Johnson succeed him as governor. Instead, Clayton refused the Senate position and negotiated Johnson's appointment as Secretary of State of Arkansas and replaced Johnson with Ozra Hadley. In March 1871, the legislature again elected Clayton to the U.S. Senate which he accepted this time. [17]

He served as chairman on the Committee on Enrolled Bills and on the Committee on Civil Service Retrenchment. [19]

In January 1872, the U.S. Senate Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of the Late Insurrectionary States heard testimony raising questions about Clayton's behavior and integrity as governor. A United States district attorney testified that in April 1871, after Clayton became U.S. Senator, a grand jury had indicted him on charges that as governor Clayton issued fraudulent election credentials for the U.S. House of Representatives election to John Edwards. [17]

In response to these allegations, Clayton contended that in eight precincts, there had been two separate sets of polls. One set was overseen by authorized judges and the other under the unauthorized control of opposing political factions. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the legal election had been held at the authorized polling places and that returns from the others were fraudulent. As governor, Clayton discarded the returns from the fraudulent polling places and certified the candidate who won from the genuine votes. The opposing candidate, Thomas Boles, contested the election and replaced John Edwards in the U.S. House of Representatives in February 1872. [17]

The committee judged the issue to be beyond its jurisdiction and turned the matter over to the Senate. At Clayton's request, the Senate appointed a special three-member committee to investigate the charges. In June 1872, after interviewing thirty-eight witnesses and generating five thousand pages of transcript, the committee issued a partial report indicating that the testimony appeared to not sustain the charges against Clayton. The committee noted that the charges came from Clayton's bitter political rivals and that the indictment against Clayton had been dropped due to lack of evidence. However, the committee members stated that they required additional time and would issue a final report in the next session of the Senate. [17]

In February 1873, the committee issued its final report declaring that the testimony failed to sustain the charges against Clayton and that there was no evidence that he had any fraudulent intent in certifying the election of Edwards as directed by the state supreme court. The Senate voted 33 to 6 to accept the committee's findings. Nine senators, mostly Democrats, abstained from voting on the grounds that they were not given enough time to sufficiently review all of the testimony. [17]

While in the Senate, Clayton appealed to his brother, William H.H. Clayton, the US Attorney in Arkansas, and President Ulysses S. Grant to have Judge Isaac Parker reassigned from Utah to Fort Smith, Arkansas, a frontier area with a high rate of violence and crime. Parker, the legendary "Hanging Judge," along with U.S. Attorney Clayton, are credited with bringing law and order to the region. [20]

In 1877, Clayton lost his Senate seat since the legislature, now dominated by Democrats elected one of their own to the Senate. Clayton moved back to Little Rock, Arkansas where he resumed his law practice and supported economic development. [2]


Adam Clayton POWELL, Jr., Congress, NY (1908-1972)

POWELL Adam Clayton, Jr. , a Representative from New York born in New Haven, Conn., November 29, 1908 attended the public schools of New York City graduated from Colgate University, Hamilton, N.Y., 1930 graduated from Columbia University, New York, N.Y., 1932 graduated from Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C., 1934 ordained minister member of the New York, N.Y., city council, 1941 newspaper publisher and editor journalist instructor, Columbia University Extension School, 1932-1940 cofounder of the National Negro Congress member of the New York state, Consumer Division, Office of Price Administration, 1942-1944 member of the Manhattan Civilian Defense 1942-1945 elected as a Democrat to the Seventy-ninth and to the ten succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1945-January 3, 1967) elected as a Democrat to the Ninetieth Congress, but was not sworn in and, pursuant to H.Res. 278, on March 1, 1967, was excluded from membership elected as a Democrat to the Ninetieth Congress, by special election, to fill the vacancy caused by his exclusion but was not sworn in reelected to the Ninety-first Congress (January 3, 1969-January 3, 1971) unsuccessful candidate for renomination to the Ninety-second Congress in 1970 chairman, Committee on Education and Labor (Eighty-seventh through Eighty-ninth Congresses) died on April 4, 1972, in Miami, Fla. cremated and ashes scattered over South Bimini in the Bahamas.


Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr.: The Play

Bruce Chadwick lectures on history and film at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He also teaches writing at New Jersey City University. He holds his PhD from Rutgers and was a former editor for the New York Daily News. Mr. Chadwick can be reached at [email protected]

There is a large photo outside of the Castillo Theater on W. 42d Street in New York, where Peter DeAnda’s new one-man drama Adam, about Adam Clayton Powell Jr., is playing, that shows the longtime, controversial Congressman getting ready to talk to a huge street crowd in Harlem. It is a mesmerizing photo because it caught the popular Powell in the middle of his Harlem flock and at his best. This one single photo reminds everybody of what a charismatic leader Powell was from the 1930s to the 1970s.

The play about him, that just opened, is a nice story about Powell’s achievements in his lifelong battle against racism in which he represented Harlem for nearly three decades in Congress. It is also an interesting look at how the public perceives its Congressmen.

The story is appropriately set on a beach on the island of Bimini, in the Bahamas, where Powell, a fishing fanatic, spent much of his time. The Reverend is seated in a beach chair, fishing cap on his head, sunglasses on his nose and hands on a fishing pole. From his beach chair he goes back through time to tell his story in a favorable way.

Powell became the minister of a large church in Harlem and then plunged into politics. He led marches, demonstrations and strikes in the 1930s to get more African Americans hired in stores and hospitals, fought for better education and public housing for blacks and built a large base following in Harlem. The charismatic, handsome community organizer was elected to the New York City Council in 1941 and went to Congress as one of its first blacks for the first time (he served through 1970). There he fought for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations' Civil Rights programs.

The play is full of solid history and takes the audience all the way back to the start of the Depression when Powell and others served as the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement, which did not gain full strength until thirty years later. You learn much about the role, and importance, of the minister in African American neighborhoods, the battles between community leaders and city officials and the power of the mass demonstration. You learn much about the street politics of New York City in the 1930s and 1940s, too.

It is a good story, but not really a complete one.

What always annoyed people about Powell was his cavalier attitude, frequent absences from Congress, rumors of infidelity, three wives, long travels at government expense, sometimes with young women other than his wife at the time, irreverence toward Congress and his determination to turn every one of the scandals in which he found himself involved into conspiracies to victimize him for being a liberal and being black.

He was also a political maverick. He did not maintain close ties to his party, the Democrats, and often feuded with other leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. He broke party ranks and campaigned for Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, infuriating the Democrats.

The problem with Adam is that the playwright ignores this well-known history. He glosses over a lot of the troubles in the life of the Congressman. He is portrayed as a distinguished minister, a righteous man of the cloth and public servant who was unfairly victimized all of his life and ignores the fact that the Congressman created his own problems.

Powell’s extravagant playboy life finally caught up to him in the late 1960s when Congress, fed up with his parties, womanizing, travels at government expense and maverick politics brought him up on charges and censured him (the vote was 307 to 116). He was booted out of Congress.

It was at this time, pleading innocent to all charges, that Powell developed his famous line to his followers, “keep the faith, baby.”

He ran for his old seat in a special election and his Harlem constituents, who loved him no matter what happened, returned him to Congress with an astonishing 85% of the vote. He then sued the government, won and went back to Congress a year later. Congress was not finished with him, though. He lost his seniority and his chairmanship of the Education and Labor Committee. Added to all of that was the case of Yvette Diago, his third wife. She was a paid employee of his but lived for six years in Puerto Rico, reportedly not doing any work for his office. It was a classic case of an alleged no-show job and helped to end to his career. He lost the 1970 election and retired, dying two years later.

The story that is told, despite its omissions, is a good one, full of history and information about one of the well-known figures of the Civil Rights movement. It just needs to fill in the holes.

Director Ajene D. Washington gets a solid performance from Timothy Simonson. He is tentative as Powell at the start of the play, but by the middle of it is impressive, especially when he preaches sermons as Powell the minister, which drew a roar from the crowd.

So, in the end, who was Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a saint or a sinner?

His place in history will always be a bit cloudy, but as he always asked people to do, keep the faith, baby, keep the faith…

PRODUCTION: The play is produced by the New Federal Theatre at the Castillo Theater. Sets: Chris Cumberbatch, Costumes: Katy Roberson, Lighting: Antoinette Tynes, Sound: Bill Toles. The play is directed by Ajene D. Washington. It runs through March 19.


Watch the video: Adam Clayton Powell Clip (July 2022).


Comments:

  1. Elias

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  2. Arashikasa

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  3. Vole

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  4. Sarsour

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