Bill Powell is engraved in history as a pioneer who was the first African American to design, construct, and own a professional golf course in the United States.
It all started with a love for the sport that started to grow at the age of nine. Fast forward, his interest in playing golf inspired him to want to play on a public course, after returning from serving in World War II.
However, he was denied due to racial segregation. Therefore, Powell decided he would find a way, and that was by creating his own.
“It’s distasteful when you get turned down,” Powell told The New York Times in 2010. “You have a little pride. You say the hell with them. You say I’m not going to badger. I’m not going to beg them. So I said I’ll just build a golf course.”
Powell first attempted to get a bank loan to spearhead the course, but he was also denied for the very same reasons. Fortunately, that did not discourage him.
He later secured a financial boost from two Black physicians and a loan from a brother to purchase 78 acres located on a farm in East Canton.
In addition, Powell’s wife Marcella chimed in to help him build the golf course by hand. What’s more, during an interview with CNBC correspondent Scott Newell, Powell said he would work 16 to 18-hour days on the course.
That work included carving out nine holes and creating fence posts. By April 1948, Clearview Golf Club opened its doors for business and all were welcome to play.
“I did not want other people who wanted to play the game of golf to have to suffer the indignities that I had,” Powell had previously said in an acceptance speech, according to The New York Times.
However, some people were not too happy about Powell’s achievement, as vandalism and ethnic slurs were found across the course. Yet, it still went on to prevail and expanded to 130 acres with 18 holes by 1978. Then, two decades later, Clearview Golf Club also became a national landmark in 2001.
“He was just obsessed,” Mr. Powell’s son and Clearview course superintendent, Larry, told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “He put all his efforts mentally, emotionally and physically into accomplishing his goal.”