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Charles Bertrand Powell (1859-1923)

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Charles Bertrand Powell
(no scanned image currently available)
Sex: Male
Birth: July 31, 1859
in Washington Township, Conway County, Arkansas
Death: October 22, 1923
in Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama
Burial: Charles Bertrand Powell plot,
Block 19,
Elmwood Cemetery,
Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama
Father: John Armstrong Powell
Mother: Julia Ann Sinclair
Spouse/Partner: Anna Louise Curtis
Marriage: December 14, 1889
in Shelby Springs, Shelby County, Alabama

BiographyEdit

         Charles Bertrand "C. B." Powell was a son of Dr. John Armstrong Powell and Julia Ann Sinclair. He was born in Washington Township, Conway County, AR, where the family still lived in 1860. At a young age, the family relocated to Iuka, Tishomingo Co., MS, to live near C. B.'s recently widowed grandmother, Anne Thweatt Hutchings Powell. At the age of 18, C. B. became a lawyer and moved to Helena, Phillips Co., AR, to work with his distant cousin, Judge P. O. Thweatt. As a prominent member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Helena, I am sure he influenced C. B.'s religious affiliation. I still have a book of poetry with the following typed on one of the first pages: "C. B. Powell, Helena, Arkansas, September 8, 1885". But in 1887, a new city beckoned him away from Helena.

         "Relatives" in the new city of Birmingham, AL (founded 1871) are said to have needed a lawyer to work on the property transactions in the city. The country's economy was on the rise and Birmingham was experiencing a boom in real estate. Another of my relatives, Thomas Semmes Forbes also came to Birmingham that year. The opportunity was too good for the young lawyer and he departed for the new city. He established an office at 2010 1/2 2nd Avenue, sharing the space with fellow attorneys W. S. McCurley and D. F. Myers.

         The next year, 1888, his parents and remaining siblings joined him. His grandmother had died two years before, so they felt free to move. Then, probably through legal contact with Judge Napoleon Bonaparte Mardis of nearby Columbiana, C. B. met Anna Louise Curtis. At 28, the schoolteacher had probably given up on marriage. But married they were on December 14, 1889, at the Shelby Springs resort just down the road from Columbiana. My father gave my mother their wedding band, which has their initials and the date inscribed. They settled in Birmingham where he was working. They would have 4 children and would at some point move into a large home on 14th Avenue South. By the early teens, C. B. kept his office in the Lyric Theater Building (18th St and 3rd Ave N), but later moved to the Title Guarantee Building (21 St and 3rd Ave N) across the street from the county courthouse at that time. C. B. became a fairly prominent lawyer.

         Unfortunately, things began to unravel a bit after his son C. B. returned home from a trip out of town with a wife. By 1920, the young couple had divorced, leaving two young daughters at his home. In 1921, he bought a cemetery plot, possibly due to his daughter Claire's severe illness. She died that year and was the first person buried there. In 1923, suffering from a severe illness himself, C. B. went in for an operation to potentially save his life. However, he died just days later. There were many honorary pallbearers at his funeral, many being his legal colleagues. He was prominent enough to have a very nice article with his picture in the local paper at his death (quite significant in 1923 Birmingham), but not so prominent that his memory lived on long after his demise. His death put a financial strain on his family. They managed to hold their own until the Great Depression, but during that time, their financial resources were exhausted, his son C. B. left town and the remaining family members struggled to make ends meet. His son Ivor, once a lawyer, found work at an Armour meat packing facility in town. His granddaughter Chrystobel had to drop out of college. The social standing of the family dissipated, though some descendants reclaimed some standing by marrying well. Still, this once prominent family is all but forgotten in Birmingham history.

ObituaryEdit

From Birmingham News, October 23, 1923

C B POWELL DIES AFTER OPERATION;
ILL TWO MONTHS

Funeral services over the body of C. B. Powell, Sr., 64, prominent attorney of Birmingham for many years, who died at South Highlands Infirmary Tuesday night following an operation last Saturday, will be held from his late residence, 1031 Twelfth Avenue, South, Wednesday afternoon at 3 o'clock. Burial will be in Elmwood Cemetery.

Pallbearers follow: Active: Frank L. Lollar, Hunter Armstrong, Russell Simmons, Hugh A. Locke, Judge Thomas R. Lea, and Perkins Prewitt.

Honorary: L. J. Haley, George M. Howle, Judge William M. Walker, Judge C. B. Smith, Judge Romaine Boyd, Judge William E. Fort, Judge Joe C. Hall, Judge John Denson, Judge Richard V. Evans, Judge Harrington P. Heflin, Judge Roger W. Snyder, Judge Edgar Allen, Judge Henry J. Martin, Vassar L. Allen, L. B. Haley, Dr. C. W. Shropshire, C. P. Beddow, A. Lee Oberdorfer, G. D. Harsh, James G. Davis, Judge H. B. Abernathy, Forney W. Brandon, William J. Waldrop, J. D. Carlisle, Nathan L. Miller, James Weatherly, John D. Strange, Henry Upton Sims, Judge J. P. Stiles, H. M. Powell, George M. Edmonds, Frank M. Dominick, Woolsey Morrow, T. J. Shirley, Ernest Matthews, Thomas J. Judge, Clarence Mullins, Richard H. Fries, E. C. Crow, B. M. Allen, E. H. Cabaniss, John P. McCoy, M. B. Grace, Walter B. Brower, and J. Wiley Logan.

Mr. Powell was operated on after a two-month illness in a final effort to save his life and though the operation was considered successful, he was not able to rally sufficiently, due to a weakened condition. Oxygen was resorted to throughout the afternoon Monday and up until the time of his death about 11 o'clock, but to no avail.

Mr. Powell had been a resident of Birmingham for 40 years and had built up a large circle of friends throughout the city and county, in which he also enjoyed a lucrative practice. Always friendly and amiable, he easily won friends and held them and was known as much for his legal friendly counseling as for his legal advice.

Born in Washington, Arkansas, in 1853, the son of Dr. and Mrs. John A. Powell, Mr. Powell as a boy, removed with his family to Iuka, Mississippi, where he spent his early youth and was admitted to the bar at the age of 18. After this, he went back to Arkansas, settling in Helena, where he practiced law with his uncle, Judge Threet. About this time, however, Birmingham was coming along as a "boom" town, and the fact that he had cousins here, one of them, James Powell, who was one of the founders of Birmingham and was known as the "Duke of Birmingham," caused him to decide to cast his lot with the new city, taking up residence in Elyton, or Old Birmingham. Throughout the years of his long practice here, Mr. Powell became known as one of the most versatile members of the Birmingham Bar and a keen student of history.

Mr. Powell is survived by a widow and daughter, Miss Gladys Powell, two sons, C. B. Powell, Jr. And Iv Powell, all of Birmingham; two brothers, Albert Powell of Bessemer and Dudley Powell of Ensley, and two sisters, Mrs. Julia Terrell of Birmingham and Mrs. John Smith of Dallas, Texas, and a nephew, Harold Powell, attorney, of Birmingham.

NotesEdit

This obituary is generally correct, but is not as accurate on specifics, for instance:

  • resident of Birmingham for about 36 years, not 40
  • born 1859 not 1853
  • practiced with older cousin Judge P. O. Thweatt, not Threatt (probably thought of him as an uncle)
  • James R. Powell, "Duke of Birmingham" died in 1883, C. B. moved to Birmingham in 1887 (no relationship proved as yet)


Also:

  • Frank Lollar owned a photo development shop in the Lyric Theater building, where CB once had an office.
  • I believe Russell Simmons is Thomas Russell Simmons (June 26, 1887 - October 29, 1954), CB's nephew (his wife's sister's son).
  • H. M. Powell is probably Harold Powell, CB's nephew


ChildrenEdit

Name Birth Death
Children of Charles Bertrand Powell and Anna Louise Curtis


Charles Bertrand Powell, Jr. April 7, 1892
Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama
May 8, 1959
Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama


Gladys Eleanor Powell ?? ??, 1893
Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama
February 15, 1957
Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama


Claire Rosamund Powell ?? ??, 1896
Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama
April 19, 1921
Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama


Ivor Martist Powell August 23, 1897 or August 23, 1898
Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama
April 19, 1967
Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama

GalleryEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • 1887 Pocket Business Directory and Guide to Birmingham, Ala. Pg. 33 (from Birmingham Public Library Online).
  • Anderson, Charles Clifford, Jr. Memories of C. B. Powell as told by my grandmother.
  • Anderson, Charles Wittichen. Visit to Elmwood Cemetery.
  • Anderson, Julia Wittichen. Memories of C. B. Powell as told by my grandmother.
  • Birmingham News, October 23, 1923. Obituary of C. B. Powell.
  • Birmingham News, 1957. Obituary of Gladys Powell.
  • FamilySearch.org
    • 1880 US Census - Bibb County, Alabama
    • Social Security Death Index
  • Heine, Heinrich. [Need to look up title]. ("C. B. Powell, Helena, Arkansas, Sept. 8, 1885" typed on second blank page).
  • Powell, C. B. Letters sent from his offices.
  • Powell, C. B., and A. L. Curtis. Wedding band.
  • Powell, Charles Bertrand. Elmwood Cemetery Records
  • Powell/Sinclair Family Bible Records.

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