Can a Powell Oust a Rangel who Ousted a Powell?
A son of the famed Adam Clayton Powell Jr. decides to challenge the man who unseated his father from Congress. You can't make this up.
I last saw Powell a few months before he died in 1972. He had lost his House seat to an upstart named Charlie Rangel two years earlier. He let me tag along as he ran energetically around New York. White and black cabbies beamed and asked for his autograph. "Wait 'til the guys in the garage hear I had Adam Clayton Powell in my cab," one said excitedly. Everywhere we went, Powell shook hands, signed autographs. He was still the movie star. We lunched at one of his favorite midtown bars, (I had a feeling there were many) and everybody knew his name. He drank several Scotches and milk. As we parted he gave me one last piece of advice, "Give 'em hell, Dreyfuss."
Powell liked his own name so much that he used it more than once for his children. His son with famed jazz organist Hazel Scott, Adam Clayton Powell III, is an expert on technology for journalists who is in charge of globalization at the University of Southern California. His son with his fourth wife, Puerto Rican Yvette Diago, originally named Adam Clayton Powell Diago, changed his name to Adam Clayton Powell IV in honor of his father (and to help his political ambitions). The Fourth, as some New Yorkers call him, was elected to the city council in New York and later to the State Assembly.
Powell IV challenged Rangel once before and was lost badly; he also lost in a race for Manhattan Borough President. He has also had some highly-publicized run-ins with the law. There is already one other announced candidate and at least two other established politicians are mulling runs, according to the New York Times. His fluency in Spanish may help him in a district that includes Hispanic East Harlem and his relative youth (48) may appeal to the many young whites who have gentrified Harlem in recent years.
The big question is whether old-time Harlemites have had enough of Rangel's problems with paid corporate trips, taxes and undeclared Caribbean apartments. For years, the argument was that his seniority gave him great clout. Now that he has resigned his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, the enthusiasm to keep him in office may be considerably weakened. And the drama of the vengeful son could turn into a reality show.