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Ed's Obituary -From the Buffalo News

POWELL - Elwin H. dies at 75; UB professor, social activist

4/26/01 Elwin H. "Ed" Powell, 75, emeritus professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo and one of the most popular figures on the UB campus for more than 40 years, died unexpectedly Friday (April 20, 2001) in his Buffalo home.

Powell was known internationally for his scholarly work on suicide and personal unrest, and locally for his defense of academic freedom, self-expression and human rights. He bicycled everywhere, usually wore a dashiki and jeans, and espoused legalization of drugs.

"He loved the University at Buffalo, and he loved teaching," said Michael P. Farrell, chairman of UB's sociology department, where Powell was still teaching part time at his death. Powell, who supported student protests at UB from the 1960s through the 1990s, actively opposed the Vietnam War. He led an all-night teach-in about the war in 1964, and sheltered war resisters in his Buffalo home in 1971.

Powell made headlines here in early 1980s when he was arrested after refusing to leave a sit-in at Squire Hall (the former Norton Union on UB's South Campus) in protest of plans to convert the longtime student center into a dental clinic. "That building is the very fountainhead of the democratic process in Buffalo," he said at the time. "It's where free speech is a reality. Like Hyde Park in London. Or Berkeley in California." Powell was found guilty of third-degree trespass and served 12 days of a 15-day sentence in the Wende Correctional Facility in the spring of 1982.

Born in Los Angeles, Powell grew up in Plainview, Texas, where he was an Eagle Scout. He attended Texas Technical College before serving in the Navy during World War II, later earning a bachelor's degree at the University of Texas. He taught high school biology in Houston before receiving a doctorate in sociology from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1956. He did post-doctoral work at the London School of Economics and Political Science before coming to UB in 1958.

In the 1960s, he was an active member of the Buffalo Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and groups calling for enforcement of laws on civil rights and human rights. In 1976, he led a local "People's Bicentennial" calling for abolition of "all government secrecy" and pressing the government to devote its energies to building "a humane society." Powell was in demand as an off-campus speaker on controversial issues throughout his long career, urging the public to take concerns directly to elected and appointed officials through letters, public protest and, where necessary, civil disobedience.

 


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Ed in 1984

Powell was the author of "Design of Discord: Studies of Anomie," published in 1970 and brought out in a second edition in 1988, as well as "A Presentation of Stanley Taylor's "Conceptions of Institutions and the Theory of Knowledge,' " published in 1989. He edited "Catalyst: A Journal of Participatory Sociology" for a number of years, and was the author of many articles, book chapters and presentations on anomie and suicide; civil rights; civil disobedience; and the conditions and crises of urban life.

In recent years, he did extensive research in the area of drug prohibition. Although retired since 1996, he continued to teach part time at UB.

At the time of his death, he was also working on a story of his life, "Autobiography of a Charismatic Follower."

"His real work wasn't sociology, scholarship or radicalism - it was helping his fellow man," said a son, Stephen R. Powell of Buffalo. "They say the measure of a man is how he affected other people. My father affected so many in a positive way, it is incredible," he said. "He loved helping others. There is a quote in his book, "Design of Discord,' that says, "I am all those who have touched my life.' "

Powell's first wife, Dr. Juanita Tisdale Powell, died in 1972.

Surviving in addition to his son are his wife, Karen Williams Powell; another son, James E. of Maui, Hawaii; three stepdaughters, Rachael, Rebekah and Eve Williams, all of Buffalo; a stepgrandchild; and three grandsons. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. May 12 in Unitarian Universalist Church, 695 Elmwood Ave.

 

 

 




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