Recalling Memorable Life Incidents & Death of Adam Clayton Powell Sr.

Adam Clayton Powell Sr. was a renowned African-American activist, pastor, and author. He was also the father of Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Read ahead to know more about this legendary personality.

Early Life

Adam Clayton Powell Sr. stepped into this world on May 5, 1865. He was born near Martin’s Mill on Maggodee Creek in Franklin County, Virginia. He was born to Sally Dunning. His father’s name is unknown. His mother married a mulatto freedman named Anthony Bush in 1867 when he was 2 years old.

Educational Background

In 1982, he graduated from Wayland Seminary, a historically black college based in Washington, DC. From 1895 to 1896, he attended Yale Divinity School. He received a D.D. at Virginia Union University in 1904.

Personal Life

He married Mattie Shaffer on June 30, 1889. Mattie was from Pratt, West Virginia. She was the daughter of Samuel Buster and Eliza. He had two children with Mattie namely, Blanche F. Powell and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Unfortunately, his eldest son passed away in 1926 and the youngest one in 1972, at the age of 63 from acute prostatitis.

All You Need To Know About His Son

His son, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., was an American Baptist pastor and politician. From 1945 until 1972, he represented the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in the United States House of Representatives. Powell was the first African-American to be elected to Congress from New York, and the first from any state in the Northeast as well. He served for nearly three decades and became a powerful national politician of the Democratic Party.

Career and Profession

Adam started his career as a Baptist minister in 1892 at the age of 27. He served at churches in New Haven, Connecticut, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1892 and 1908. He developed the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York as the largest Protestant congregation in the country with ten thousand members. Where he served from 1908 to 1936 as a pastor. Adam was the founder of the ‘National Urban League.’ He was active in several educational institutions and community organizations.

Adam As An Author

He was not only a renowned pastor but also a published author. He wrote an autobiography titled “Against the Tide: An Autobiography,” published in 1938. In 1945, he published another book called “Riots and Ruins.”

Death of Adam

Adam passed away living in Flushing, Queens, New York, on 12 June 1953. He was 88 years old at the time of his death.

Where Is He Buried?

He is buried at Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, Queens, New York City, New York.

Interesting Facts

  • Adam’s mother named him after his mother’s elder brother Adam Dunning.
  • His mother, Sally Dunning, was a free woman of color. It means the women who were not enslaved in the Americas and were of mixed African, European, and Native American descent.
  • He never knew who his father was.
  • He was succeeded by his son Adam Clayton Powell Jr. as pastor at the church in 1937.


Adam Clayton Powell Sr. was an American pastor who lived his life fruitfully. He was an African-American community activist. He also served as a trustee of several historically black colleges and schools.

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