The National Optometric Association (NOA) celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
C. Clayton Powell, OD ’52, co-founded this organization with the late John L. Howlette, OD ’51. Dr. Powell was a Morehouse College classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was the only black student in his class at ICO (then called the Chicago College of Optometry). He was extraordinarily active in optometry school, editing the Eyes Right newspaper and joining multiple fraternities. It is no wonder that he went on to give African-American optometrists a powerful, organized voice in the profession.
Dr. Powell has served his community in many ways, sitting on multiple boards and sponsoring a scholarship for black ICO students following in his footsteps. In celebration of the NOA’s historic milestone, we checked in with Dr. Powell in Atlanta, Georgia. These are his Essentials for everyday living as a doctor, activist, and history-maker.
GREAT SEEING YOU
“When I least expect it, I encounter appreciative former employees or former patients who fondly remind me, ‘Dr. Powell, you performed my first eye examination’ or ‘prescribed my first pair of glasses.’ I served generations of some families. It’s nice to be associated with such a positive legacy.”
"One of the highlights of my life is chronicling my journey in a book — the soon-to-be-released C. Clayton Powell and the Real Atlanta, a Memoir and a Tribute to Those Who Made It Happen. In it, I credit those who most influenced my life."
“The National Optometric Association (NOA) will host this summer in Atlanta the 50th anniversary of the organization that Dr. John L. Howlette and I co-founded to recruit minority students to the profession. I can’t wait to celebrate the inspiration, aspirations, and impact of NOA with others who’ve carried the torch through the years.”
THE COLOR PURPLE
“Can’t say why it’s my favorite [color]— perhaps because of its association with my fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, and with peace, devotion, ambition, and independence.”
“One of my simple pleasures is observing quietly as people in public places go about their daily lives — it’s an infinite source of fascination.”
OUT FOR A SPIN
“Win or lose, I love the thrill, the suspense, and the jackpot allure of trying my hand at casino Wheel of Fortune machines.”
ON A CLEAR DAY
“The comings and goings of massive cruise ships and the prominent domes, columns, and sculptures of Atlantis, the ocean side resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas, are visible most days from the patio of the villa that is my annual mid-summer Caribbean retreat. There, I can also take in breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and be refreshed by cool breezes and mudslide cocktails.”
WHITE TABLE CLOTHS
“I am dining in fine fashion if I can bask in ambiance of warmth and elegance, delight in the companionship of my wife, Deborah, and enjoy exquisitely prepared dishes like succulent sea bass and escargot at restaurants such as the Lobster Bar Sea Grille in Atlanta and the famed Café Martinique at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas.”
MUSIC TO MY EARS
“For my taste, nothing is more enchanting than the mellowness and lyrical enunciations of Nat King Cole singing The Christmas Song, or more reverent than John Greenleaf Whittier’s prayerful verse Dear Lord and Father of Mankind richly harmonized as a hymn. I helped render it decades ago as a tenor with the Morehouse College Glee Club.”