Bro. Dr. Archie James Powell was born on June 1, 1950, to Archie Lee and Audrey Daniels Powell, in Lakeland, Florida. He is the oldest of three children, and the only male child.
Bro. Powell was educated at St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Elementary School, and Charles Lincoln Harper High School on the West side of Atlanta Georgia. He began studying the piano at age four, and won First Prize at a National Guild of Piano Teachers Southern District Piano Competition at age fourteen. The First Prize Award was a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. At age fourteen, Powell began his first professional music job assisting the renowned Victoria A. Smith, organist at Union Baptist Church. He was also a Boy Scout, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in 1966, at the age of 16.
Powell graduated with high honors from Harper High in 1968, and received an academic scholarship to Morehouse College. He chose to attend Morehouse College, rather than Juilliard, to study music. His father was a Morehouse graduate (class of 1952) and his mother was a graduate of Spelman College. In 1968 his mother was hospitalized with kidney failure, and remained in the hospital until her death in 1969. Attending Morehouse allowed him the opportunity to spend time with her every day, until her death.
While at Morehouse he sang in the world-renowned Morehouse College Glee Club. Powell also studied organ at Morehouse with the late Dr. Whendell P. Whalum, Chairman of the Music Department, College Organist, Director of the Glee Club, and Minister of Music at Allen Temple AME Church.
Powell was a straight A student as a freshman and sophomore, and changed his major from music to a double major in history and French. In 1970 he became the first sophomore in the history of Morehouse to be awarded the prestigious Merrill- Overseas-Travel Study-Grant. The grant paid for a full year of foreign study and travel. He would spend his junior year at the University Of Nantes, France. While studying in France he lived with a local family, and totally immersed himself in language and culture of France. He also studied the pipe organ with the Dean of Music at the historic Nantes Cathedral, learning to play one of the largest pipe organs in the world. In addition to his university studies that year, Powell also earned the “Certificat Practique de Langue Francaise,” licensing him to teach the French language anywhere in the world.
Powell returned to Morehouse for his senior year in the fall of 1971. He served as president of his class and graduated with honors in June 1972. He received offers of admission to some of the most prestigious Graduate Schools in the U.S., including Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Stanford, Duke, NYU, and the University of Chicago. He was also awarded the coveted Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellowship, paying all expenses to the Graduate School of his choice. Powell enrolled at Brown University (Providence, RI) because of the quality of the faculty in the History Department, and the fact that Brown accepted him immediately into its Doctoral Degree Program.
As the only Black Ph. D. student in the History Department, Powell became immediately aware of the problems many Black students faced at historically white universities, and helped to organize the Graduate Minority Student Association. The following year, he was elected president of the Brown University Graduate Student Council, a position he held for two years. By 1975, Brown bad become a leader among the Ivy League schools in the area of recruitment and retention of Black and Hispanic students. In fact, the Brown Corporation created a special position—Director of Minority Affairs, and persuaded Powell to become the first person to serve in that position.
While a graduate student at Brown, Powell studied organ with Professor Frederick MacArthur, Brown University Organist, and Organist at the Old South Church in Boston. Professor MacArthur nominated Powell for membership in the Boston Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and recommended him for the organist job at the historic Trinity United Methodist Church in downtown Providence. Powell had worked as an organist and choir director at the Olney Street Baptist Church for several years, before accepting the Trinity Church position.
Powell became very close to Bros. Nathaniel “Pete” Donaldson, a fellow Georgian, and R. Eugene Davis who served for many years as president of the Pi Beta Sigma Chapter (Providence, RI Graduate Chapter). He would join Pi Beta Sigma Chapter and serve as chapter secretary, vice-president and president. During his time in Providence Powell founded the Iota Upsilon Chapter at Brown University, serve as New England Area Director and found the Providence Area Sigma Beta Club. He later served the Eastern Region as Regional Secretary, Vice-Regional Director, and eventually Eastern Regional Director. He attended every Eastern Regional Conference and National Conclave from the year of his initiation until 1995, when illness and the sudden death of his wife, Shirley, moved him to step aside.
In 1977, Dr. Powell was recruited by Albany Medical College, and several members of the New York State Board of Regents, to become Associate Dean of Students for Minority Affairs at Albany Medical College. While in Albany Dr. Powell also became Director of Music at the Historic Israel ÂME Church, on Capitol Hill (the oldest Black church in upstate New York), pastored by Bro. Rev. James E. F. Lawrence. In 1980 Bros. Powell and Lawrence identified four additional brothers in the area, enabling them to charter Mu Iota Sigma Chapter (Albany, NY Graduate Chapter). Dr. Powell became the first Area Director for Upstate New York, and helped to strengthen chapters in Syracuse (Zeta Psi Sigma), Rochester (Theta Upsilon Sigma), and Buffalo (Theta Sigma).
While in Albany, Dr. Powell also became a Prince Hall Mason, inducted into Capitol City Lodge, #78, the Albany Consistory, the Holy Royal Arch and the Al Tabari Shrine Temple. He served as Treasurer of Capitol City Lodge #78 for three terms, until 1983, when he was recruited by Boston University to become Associate Director of Admissions.
Boston University recruited Dr. Powell to duplicate his accomplishments at both Brown University and Albany Medical College in the area of increasing minority student enrollment. Powell found the bureaucracy at Boston University to be extremely complex and much more complicated than anything he had ever experienced elsewhere. The University also lacked serious support for minority student development in its executive leadership. Powell found his responsibilities expanded to the point that he was attempting to cope with large undergraduate, graduate, and medical school administrations simultaneously.
The stress of 16-18 hour days with non-stop meetings caused Dr. Powell to suffer a heart attack and subsequent kidney failure due to chronic high blood pressure. As a result of his illnesses Powell had to accept an early medical retirement due to mandatory kidney dialysis treatments. This was advised by his primary care physician Bro. Dr. Anthony Rocha; who was recruited and initiated into the Fraternity by Dr. Powell. In 1995 his wife Shirley died suddenly of pneumonia, while he was in the hospital.
Dr. Powell continued his work as a musician at the Concord Baptist Church of Boston (at the time, Boston’s largest Black Baptist church), where he served at various times as Director of the Chancel Choir, Director of the Brotherhood Chorus and Director of the Fred D. Jeter Gospel Chorus. He also served for several years as Music Director of the Boston Orchestra and Chorale Choir, which he founded in 1998. He also began teaching piano privately, to nearly twenty students. In the fall of 2003, he was named Director of Music and Organist at the Grant ÂME Church, in Boston. Dr. Powell convinced their Board of Trustees to allow him to use that church facility as the location for a music studio that he founded and currently bears his name. He has presented his students in recitals annually for the past three years, and currently has a waiting list of people hoping to enroll and be taught piano, organ or voice lessons by him.
In spite of a major shift in his professional career focus, Dr. Powell has maintained his strong commitment to Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. In 2005 he transferred to Zeta Kappa Sigma Chapter (Boston, MA Graduate Chapter), where he previously served as secretary. He has voluntarily opened his home, inviting Sigma brothers for informal gatherings where he has provided complimentary food and hospitality. Through his personal and professional network, Dr. Powell has managed to make many younger brothers aware of the great history made by Phi Beta Sigma brothers in the New England area. He has also encouraged many prominent graduate brothers to come together again as active financial members of the Fraternity; including such notables as:
Rev. Jay Broadnax: Former Pastor of Bethel ÂME Church (Lynn, MA), who pledged Sigma as an undergraduate at Brown under Dr. Powell
Twaun M. Doyle: Former Director of Music at the historic Charles Street ÂME Church (Roxbury, MA), who began to learn how to play the organ under Dr. Powell’s teaching while a high school student in Providence
Dr. David M. Coleman II: Professor and Chairman of the Division of Humanities and Social Science at the Roxbury Community College, who pledged as an undergraduate at Boston University
Dr. Richard K. Fields: President of Franklin Institute of Technology (Boston, MA), who served for many years as the Chapter Advisor to Zeta Chi Chapter (Boston University)
Rev. Darryl M. Smaw: Assistant Dean of the Chapel at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) and Former Black Chaplain at Brown University
Milton J. Wright: Former Chief Judge of the Roxbury District Court, who pledged as an undergraduate at Morehouse
Dr. Powell’s dream is to have the Zeta Kappa Sigma Chapter grow into one of the largest, most active chapters in the Eastern Region. He believes that his chapter has great potential for providing leadership in the greater Boston community on the issues of Education, Social Action, and Bigger and Better Business. He also believes they have tremendous power to develop collegiate chapters at Harvard, Tufts, Brandeis, Boston University, Univ. of Massachusetts (Boston), Univ. of Massachusetts (Lowell), and several of the smaller colleges that have Black male student populations. He sincerely believes the Boston graduate brothers to be capable of making his dream a reality. Bro. Dr. Archie James Powell continues to commit his life to living the motto:
“Culture For Service and Service For Humanity”.