Anger seethed through the tightly packed congregation on the steps of the U. S. Capitol. The preacher intoned, “It says in the Old Testament, if a man falls, he shall rise again.… I’m on the battlefield for my Lord!”
The Reverend Adam Clayton Powell had just lost his seat in Congress, pending an investigation that would probably stretch into March. The day before, House Democrats had dumped him from chairmanship of the powerful education-labor committee.
Like some outspoken Negro clergymen, the Capitol crowd thought Powell was roasted because of his race. An assortment of financial irregularities have been attributed to him, but Powell has said that “I have done nothing more than any other member and, by the grace of God, I intend to do not one bit less.”
There has never been an American preacher quite like Powell. This year he marks his thirtieth anniversary in the lucrative pulpit of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, one of the nation’s biggest congregations, where his father was pastor before him. In contrast to many of the devout parishoners, he had a silver-spoon childhood and earned a B.A. from Colgate and an M.A. from Columbia. He also holds honorary doctorates from two Negro Baptist colleges.
Powell kept the pulpit when he entered politics. Three months ago he won his twelfth House term. In his Capitol Hill office, dubbed the “Cathedral” by puckish staffers, Powell would wink, “it all comes from serving Jesus.” He enjoyed the best in food and drink, and a succession of comely women kept the gossip mills churning. Twice divorced, he is now estranged from his third wife.
Through all this, the fact of Powell as preacher has been obscured. But Trident Press plans publication in June of fifty of his sermons, which will give ...1
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