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The Life of Col. Joseph Powell Remembered With Military Honors

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By Cheryl Brown –

“A giant has fallen,” said Pastor Gerald Penick, President of the So. Eastern Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. And a life was well remembered at a top military service for Col. Joseph Powell.

About 1600 people spent time honoring a man who gave to God and country through his service as a pastor and leader in the military as Chaplain.

U.S. Senate Chaplain, Barry Black preached his eulogy and Major Andrew R. Harewood, United States Army Deputy Pentagon Chaplain directed the service. It was military and it was holy. There were few seats to accommodate late comers and the program progressed on. Those making comment were those who knew him.

Not a passing knowledge of him but a deep knowledge of what made him the man that he was. The men who honored him one after another said that he was the reason for them being in the military and he was the reason they themselves had the rank. He had diverse relationships: husband, father, brother, dean, solider, chaplain, read Dr. Tina Robinson, head of Living Legends. She and Victoria

Watts read the acknowledgements from civil rights organizations, the Bermuda Conference of Seventh-Day Adventist and from close friends.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. whom he fought the battles of legal segregation over, said everybody can be great because everyone can serve. Powell’s work was great because he served,” they read. As she finished she saluted the casket and said, “Col. Powell you are dismissed.”

It was Chaplain Harewood who said as a teenager he would see Captain Powell in the inspirational stories in the books they read in Bible Study. That planted an indelible image in his mind.

Dr. Calvin Rock, (ret.) Vice President of North American Division of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, talked about Powell’s loyalty. He was loyal to his home church in Baltimore, MD, to country, to troops, colleagues, students, super loyal to his family most of all he was loyal to his Lord,” said Rock.

Chaplain Black spoke of the sadness he felt when he heard of his mentor’s death.

“Powell used to come to Oakwood College in his uniform, crisp and sharp,” he said. He said they were both from Baltimore and he felt that he came to the campus just to see him and to encourage him. It was his nurturing spirit that helped to lead Black into the ministry and the military. “He mentored me and others,” he said. Chaplain Black said that he led a life service and after he retired he was willing to go to Oakwood College to be the chaplain there. He served the purpose of God not the life of himself.

Chaplain Black recalled the story of when he asked for permission to get involved with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the desegregation movement; he was told that racial segregation will be here as long as the end of time. “He got involved and served his generation,” said Chaplain Black. Chaplain Black spoke of the ability to articulate and make his verb and subject agree, and how his ability to speak helped level the playing ground. He had the military asking “are there any more like you where you come from?”

The military was segregated when he came along.

Speaking directly to Powell’s wife Alice he said, “we would not be military chaplains without your husband, without his sustained performance. Chaplain Herman Kibble would not have been the first Black Adventist Chaplain on an Aircraft Carrier.

“Had it not been for him I wouldn’t have been an Admiral, had I not been an Admiral I wouldn’t be the U.S. Senate Chaplain. I owe it to my mentor,” said Chaplain Black.

Delbert Baker, President of Oakwood College made mention of Black’s priorities.

“I thought about the funeral of (Ted) Kennedy (going on at the same time) and that Chaplain Black was on program. But he came here,” he said. In a word Harewood told Black Voice News after the service of Black coming even with the pressing service of Kennedy: priorities! It’s what you are and who you are and he knew his priority. He made the right choice,” said Harewood.

“He did what he had to do. They could get by without him,” said Sgt. William Farmer.

Chaplain Washington Johnson, a Navy reservist and Editor of the Messenger Adventist Magazine said of Black’s decision. “He is a tremendous leader that believes in service. He inspired me to greater service that service is leading others to Christ,” said Johnson.

As the service was being planned and the military took over the planning, Lt. Col. (Ret) Bill Howe, told Black Voice News, “The music will make you want to walk right into heaven,” Howe is a member of the church and was a close friend of Powell’s.

On Monday in a solemn service Col. Joseph Powell went into his rest at Riverside National Cemetery until Jesus Christ comes again.

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