Dr. C. Clayton Powell, Co-Founder of National Optometric Association, Dies at 93


NEW YORK— Dr. C. Clayton Powell, a co-founder of the National Optometric Association (NOA), passed away Friday in Atlanta where he had practiced for many years. He was 93. Powell, a graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry, helped to create and to launch NOA in 1969. In a statement posted on social media, NOA said, “It is with profound sadness, that we announce the loss of our leader and co-founder of the National Optometric Association, Dr. C. Clayton Powell.

“Dr. Powell co-created The National Optometric Association, in order to open doors for African American students. The organization has been pivotal in creating opportunities for students of various backgrounds; supporting in the way of scholarships, grants, and matriculation programs. For over 50 years, the communities most often overlooked, have been serviced with events promoting minority ocular health.

"Dr. C. Clayton Powell was a true leader, full of passion and conviction. His dedication to the profession was unparalleled and he will be deeply missed. Please keep his wife, Mrs. Deborah Powell, and their entire family, in your prayers,” the statement said.

NOA also noted that it expects to provide more information over the next few days.

In Atlanta, the local Fox 5 television station reported that Powell graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO), where he was the only Black student in his class. He then practiced optometry in Atlanta.

Powell was born in Dothan, Ala., in 1927, the television station reported. Speaking as part of a Morehouse History project, Powell said he remembered in his youth picking cotton and shaking peanuts as well as meeting George Washington Carver.

Powell later moved to Atlanta and attended Booker T. Washington High School, where he was named president of the school's student government. He went to college at Morehouse College in Atlanta and was a member of the Beta Kappa Chi National Scientific Society, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and other organizations, according to the television report.

In 1969, Powell helped to found NOA to open doors for African-American students interested in studying the field of optometry. The organization, which has now been around for over 50 years, helps through scholarships and grants as well as serving overlooked communities and promoting eye health.

Dr. Powell's civil rights work didn't just focus on eyes. He also worked with the Atlanta branch of the NAACP to file the cases to desegregate Atlanta Public School, the NOA reports.

Powell is survived by his wife, Deborah Powell, and their family.