Lewis Powell

Lewis Powell

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Lewis Thornton Powell, the son of a Baptist preacher, was born in Randolph County, Alabama, on 22nd April, 1844. The family moved to Florida in 1859 and Powell worked supervising his father's plantation until the outbreak of the American Civil War.

On 30th May, 1861, Powell joined the Second Florida Infantry. He was a member of the Confederate Army that fought at Gettysburg. He was wounded during the battle and taken prisoner. After being transferred to an hospital in Baltimore Powell escaped and enlisted in the Virginia Cavalry in the autumn of 1863. However, in January, 1865 he left the cavalry and took the Oath of Allegiance to the Union. At this time he began using the name Powell

Powell had a reputation for having a violent temper. While in a Branson boarding house he was reported to the military authorities for nearly killing an African American maid. A witness claimed that he "threw her on the ground and stamped on her body, struck her on the forehead, and said he would kill her".

Powell knew John Surratt who introduced him to John Wilkes Booth who recruited him to take part in his plot to kidnap Abraham Lincoln in Washington. The plan was to take Lincoln to Richmond and hold him until he could be exchanged for Confederate Army prisoners of war. Others involved in the plot included George Atzerodt, David Herold, Michael O'Laughlin and Samuel Arnold. Booth decided to carry out the deed on 17th March, 1865 when Lincoln was planning to attend a play at the Seventh Street Hospital that was situated on the outskirts of Washington. The kidnap attempt was abandoned when Lincoln decided at the last moment to cancel his visit.

On 9th April, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. Two days later Booth attended a public meeting in Washington where he heard Abraham Lincoln make a speech where he explained his views that voting rights should be granted to some African Americans. Booth was furious and decided to assassinate the president before he could carry out these plans.

Booth persuaded most of the people, including Powell, who had been involved in the kidnap plot to join him in his plan. Booth discovered that on 14th April, Abraham Lincoln was planning to attend the evening performance of Our American Cousin at the Ford Theatre in Washington. Booth decided he would assassinate Lincoln while George Atzerodt would kill Vice President Andrew Johnson and Powell agreed to murder William Seward, the Secretary of State. All attacks would take place at approximately 10.15 p.m. that night.

At 10.00 p.m. Powell and David Herold arrived at the home of William Seward, who was recovering from a serious carriage accident. When William Bell, a servant opened the door, Powell told him he had medicine from Dr. Tullio Verdi. When Bell refused to let him in, Powell pushed past him and rushed up the stairs. Frederick Seward, the Secretary of State's son, came out and asked him what he wanted. Powell hit Steward with his revolver so hard he fracturing his skull in two places. Powell was now confronted with George Robinson, Seward's bodyguard. Powell slashed him with his bowie knife before leaping onto Seward's bed and repeatedly stabbed him. Powell, thinking he had killed him, racing out of the house where Herold was waiting with his horse.

Herold went to Mary Surratt's boarding house and together with John Wilkes Booth, who had successfully killed Abraham Lincoln, headed for the Deep South. Whereas Powell hid for three days in a wood before visiting Sturratt's house. Unfortunately for Powell, soon afterwards the police arrived and arrested him and Mary Surratt.

On 1st May, 1865, President Andrew Johnson ordered the formation of a nine-man military commission to try the conspirators. It was argued by Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War, that the men should be tried by a military court as Lincoln had been Commander in Chief of the army. Several members of the cabinet, including Gideon Welles (Secretary of the Navy), Edward Bates (Attorney General), Orville H. Browning (Secretary of the Interior), and Henry McCulloch (Secretary of the Treasury), disapproved, preferring a civil trial. However, James Speed, the Attorney General, agreed with Stanton and therefore the defendants did not enjoy the advantages of a jury trial.

The trial began on 10th May, 1865. The military commission included leading generals such as David Hunter, Lewis Wallace, Thomas Harris and Alvin Howe and Joseph Holt was the government's chief prosecutor. Powell, Mary Surratt, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were all charged with conspiring to murder Lincoln. During the trial Holt attempted to persuade the military commission that Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government had been involved in conspiracy.

Joseph Holt attempted to obscure the fact that there were two plots: the first to kidnap and the second to assassinate. It was important for the prosecution not to reveal the existence of a diary taken from the body of John Wilkes Booth. The diary made it clear that the assassination plan dated from 14th April. The defence surprisingly did not call for Booth's diary to be produced in court.

During his trial Powell was identified by all the people in Seward's house as the man who had attempted to kill the Secretary of State. Powell's lawyer, W. E. Doster, claimed in court that his client was insane. He argued that this had been caused by his experiences in the Confederate Army. Throughout the trial Powell insisted that Mary Surratt had not been part of the conspiracy.

On 29th June, 1865, Powell, Mary Surratt, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were found guilty of being involved in the conspiracy to murder Abraham Lincoln. Powell, Surratt, Atzerodt and Herold were hanged at Washington Penitentiary on 7th July, 1865.

I live at the house of Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, and attend to the door. That man (pointing to Lewis Powell) came to the house of Mr. Seward on the night of the 14th April. The bell rang and I went to the door, and that man came in. He had a little package in his hand; he said it was medicine for Mr. Seward from Dr. Verdi, and that he was sent by Dr. Verdi to direct Mr. Seward how to take it. He said he must go up; then repeating the words over, and was a good while talking with me in the hall.

He then walked up to the hall towards the steps. He met Mr. Frederick Seward on the steps this side of his father's room. He told Mr. Frederick that he wanted to see Mr. Seward. Mr. Frederick went into the room and came out, and told him that he could not see him; that his father was asleep, and to give him the medicine, and he would take it to him. That would not do; he must see Mr. He must see him; he said it in just that way. He then struck Mr. Frederick. Then I ran down stairs and out of the front door, hallooing "murder".

On the 14th April I was at the residence of Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, acting as attendant nurse to Mr. Seward, who was confined to his bed by injuries received from having been thrown from his carriage. One of his arms was broken and his jaw fractured.

I heard a disturbance in the hall, and opened the door to see what the trouble was; and as I opened the door this man (Lewis Powell) struck me with a knife in the forehead, knocked me partially down, and pressed by me to the bed of Mr. Seward, and struck him, wounding him. As soon as I could get on my feet, I endeavored to haul him off his bed, and then he turned upon me. In the scuffle Major Seward came into the room and clinched him. Between the two of us we got him to the door, and he, unclinching his hands from around my neck, struck me again, this time with his fist, knocking me down, and then broke away from Major Seward and ran down stairs.

I saw him strike Mr. Seward with the same knife with which he cut my forehead. It was a large knife, and he held it with the blade down below his hand. I saw him cut Mr. Seward twice that I am sure of; the first time he struck him on the right cheek, and then he seemed to be cutting around his neck.

I am the son of William H. Seward, Secretary of State, and was at his home on the night of 14th April, 1865. I retired to bed at half-past seven. I very shortly fell asleep, and so remained until I was awakened by the screams of my sister, when I jumped out of bed and ran into my father's room. The gas in the room was turned down rather low, and I saw what appeared to be two men, one trying to hold the other at the foot of my father's bed. I seized by the clothes on his breast and shoved the person of whom I had hold to the door, with the intention of getting him out of the room. While I was pushing him, he struck me five or six times on the forehead and top of the head, and once on the left hand, with what I supposed to be a bottle or decanter that he had seized from the table. During this time he repeated, in an intense but not strong voice, the words "I'm mad, I'm mad!" On reaching the hall he gave a sudden turn, and sprang away from me, and disappeared down the stairs.

I was in charge of the party that took possession of Mrs. Surratt’s house, 541 High Street, on the night of the 17th of April, and arrested Mrs. Surratt, Miss Surratt, Miss Fitzpatrick, and Miss Jenkins. When I went up the steps, and rang the bell of the house, Mrs. Surratt came to the window, and said "Is that you, Mr. Kirby?" The reply was that it was not Mr. Kirby, and to open the door. She opened the door, and I asked, "Are you Mrs. Surratt?" She said, "I am the widow of John H. Surratt." And I added, "The mother of John H. Surratt, jr.?" She replied, "I am." I then said, "I come to arrest you and all in your house, and take you for examination to General Augur’s headquarters." No inquiry whatever was made as to the cause of the arrest. While we were there, Powell came to the house. I questioned him in regard to his occupation, and what business he had at the house that time of night. He stated that was a laborer, and had come there to dig a gutter at the request of Mrs. Surratt. I went to the parlor door, and said, "Mrs. Surratt, will you step here a minute?" She came out, and I asked her, "Do you know this man, and did you hire him to come and dig a gutter for you?" She answered, raising her right hand, "Before God, sir, I do not know this man, and have never seen him, and I did not hire him to dig a gutter for me." Powell said nothing. I then placed him under arrest, and told him he was so suspicious a character that I should send him to Colonel Wells, at General Augur’s headquarters, for further examination. Powell was standing in full view of Mrs. Surratt, and within three paces of her, when she denied knowing him.

Powell is very tall, with an athletic, gladiatorial frame. He displayed a massive robustness of animal manhood in its most stalwart type. He had unflinching dark grey eyes, low forehead, massive jaws, compressed full lips, small nose with large nostrils, and stolid, remorseless expression.

I was determined to get rope that would not break, for you know when a rope breaks at a hanging there is a time-worn maxim that the person intended to be hanged was innocent. The night before the execution I took the rope to my room and there made the nooses. I preserved the piece of rope intended for Mrs. Surratt for the last.

I had the graves for the four persons dug just beyond the scaffolding. I found some difficulty in having the work done, as the arsenal attaches were superstitious. I finally succeeded in getting soldiers to dig the holes but they were only three feet deep.

The hanging gave me a lot of trouble. I had read somewhere that when a person was hanged his tongue would protrude from his mouth. I did not want to see four tongues sticking out before me, so I went to the storehouse, got a new white shelter tent and made four hoods out of it. I tore strips of the tent to bind the legs of the victims.

The prison door opened and the condemned came in. Mrs. Surratt was first, near fainting after a look at the gallows. She would have fallen had they not supported her. Herold was next. The young man was frightened to death. He trembled and shook and seemed on the verge of fainting. Atzerodt shuffled along in carpet slippers, a long white nightcap on his head. Under different circumstances, he would have been ridiculous.

With the exception of Powell, all were on the verge of collapse. They had to pass the open graves to reach the gallows steps and could gaze down into the shallow holes and even touch the crude pine boxes that were to receive them. Powell was as stolid as if he were a spectator instead of a principal. Herold wore a black hat until he reached the gallows. Powell was bareheaded, but he reached out and took a straw hat off the head of an officer. He wore it until they put the black bag on him. The condemned were led to the chairs and Captain Rath seated them. Surratt and Powell were on our drop, Herold and Atzerodt on the other.

Umbrellas were raised above the woman and Hartranft, who read the warrants and findings. Then the clergy took over talking what seemed to me interminably. The strain was getting worse. I became nauseated, what with the heat and the waiting, and taking hold of the supporting post, I hung on and vomited. I felt a little better after that, but not too good.

Powell stood forward at the very front of the droop. Surratt was barely past the break, as were the other two. Rath came down the steps and gave the signal. Surratt shot down and I believed died instantly. Powell was a strong brute and died hard. It was enough to see these two without looking at the others, but they told us both died quickly.

Lewis F. Powell Jr.

Lewis Franklin Powell Jr. (September 19, 1907 – August 25, 1998) was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1971 to 1987. Powell compiled a generally conservative and business-aligned record on the Court.

Born in Suffolk, Virginia, he graduated from both Washington and Lee Law School and Harvard Law School and served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. He worked for a large law firm in Richmond, Virginia, focusing on corporate law and representing clients such as the Tobacco Institute. In 1971, President Richard Nixon appointed Powell to succeed Associate Justice Hugo Black. He retired from the Court during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, and was eventually succeeded by Anthony Kennedy.

His tenure largely overlapped with that of Chief Justice Warren Burger, and Powell was often a key swing vote on the Burger Court. His majority opinions include First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti and McCleskey v. Kemp, and he wrote an influential opinion in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. He notably joined the majority in cases such as United States v. Nixon, Roe v. Wade, Plyler v. Doe, and Bowers v. Hardwick.

History of the Court – Timeline of the Justices – Lewis F. Powell, Jr., 1972-1987

LEWIS F. POWELL, JR., was born in Suffolk, Virginia, on September 19, 1907, and lived most of his life in Richmond, Virginia. He was graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1929 and from Washington and Lee University Law School in 1931. In 1932, he received a master’s degree from Harvard Law School. Powell entered practice with a Richmond law firm, where he became a senior partner and continued his association until 1971. During World War II, he served in the United States Army Air Force in Europe and North America. After the War, Powell resumed his law practice. He served as the President of the American Bar Association from 1964 to 1965 and of the American College of Trial Lawyers from 1968 to 1969. In 1966, he served as a member of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Crime Commission. On December 9, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon nominated Powell to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment on January 7, 1972. Powell served on the Supreme Court for fifteen years. He retired on June 26, 1987. He died on August 25, 1998 at the age of ninety.

The Legend of the Powell Memo

The story of the Rise of the Right is the great fable in recent American politics, one that is endlessly revised as it is told and retold by its participants and by envious observers from the left bank. In recent versions, a central place in the story has been given to a memo written in 1971 by Richmond corporate lawyer (and future U.S. Supreme Court justice) Lewis Powell to a neighbor who was active in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Powell's eight-page memo, titled “Attack on American Free Enterprise System,” was a call for American business to defend its interests against criticisms of capitalism emanating “from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals,” and particularly from Ralph Nader (whose model of public interest litigation and publicity was then at its height). Powell recommended to the chamber a number of strategies, including building a group of scholars-on-call to defend the system monitoring and critiquing the media and building legal organizations that could fight back in the courts.

The memo was circulated within Chamber of Commerce circles and became public after Powell's confirmation to the court, when journalist Jack Anderson unearthed it to question Powell's judicial temperament. After that, it seems to have been forgotten.

Today, though, the Powell Memo is routinely invoked as the blueprint for virtually all of the conservative intellectual infrastructure built in the 1970s and 1980s -- “a memo that changed the course of history,” in the words of one analysis of the anti-environmental movement “the attack memo that changed America,” in another account. A historian cited the Powell Memo as the root of recent attacks on academic freedom. Jeffrey Rosen's profile of the legal movement known as “The Constitution in Exile” -- scholars and judges who believe that the Supreme Court went awry in 1937 when it began to permit regulation of economic activity -- likewise finds the source in Powell's memo. The Powell Memo is a major feature in a PowerPoint presentation on the “Conservative Message Machine” circulated to liberal donors. Writing about the Democratic Party in The New York Times recently, former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley, for whom I worked in the 1990s, summarized the current consensus:

When the Goldwater Republicans lost in 1964 … they tried to figure out how to make their own ideas more appealing to the voters. As part of this effort, they turned to Lewis Powell, then a corporate lawyer and soon to become a member of the United States Supreme Court. In 1971 he wrote a landmark memo for the United States Chamber of Commerce in which he advocated a sweeping, coordinated and long-term effort to spread conservative ideas on college campuses, in academic journals and in the news media.

How did the Powell Memo so recently come to have such iconic importance? Why was it neglected for so long? And is it accurate to describe the memo as a kind of blueprint for the think tanks, the campus organizations, the media watchdogs, and the legal institutions that came later?

I started asking this question because most histories of the right don't attribute any significance to the Powell Memo at all. Indeed, a biography of Powell (who, incidentally, was a conservative Democrat and moderate jurist, not a Goldwater Republican) doesn't discuss it. You won't read about the Powell Memo in Lee Edwards's The Conservative Revolution, James A. Smith's The Idea Brokers, Sidney Blumenthal's The Rise of the Counterestablishment, Godfrey Hodgson's A World Turned Right-Side Up, or George Nash's authoritative The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945.

Credit for rediscovering the Powell Memo probably goes to the Alliance for Justice in its 1993 report, Justice for Sale, a superb and still-relevant analysis of the use of corporate and right-wing foundation funds to reshape the legal academy to introduce judges to “law and economics” dogma to promote tort reform and to build right-wing public-interest law firms. Powell's memo does specifically discuss the need for such a legal counterpart to the then-thriving litigation units of the left and Justice for Sale traces a specific path -- from the distribution of the memo within the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to the recommendation by the California Chamber to create a nonprofit “to meet the challenge of those who have gone to the courts to seek change in public policy in areas which vitally affect private … interests,” and then to the 1973 establishment of the Pacific Legal Foundation (which remains an anchor of the anti-environmental “property rights” movement).

I first encountered the Powell Memo in John B. Judis's The Paradox of American Democracy, published in 2000, which credits Powell with convincing businessmen that they should be more politically active, and credits Irving Kristol with connecting that reaction among chamber-types and Wall Streeters to the ideological vision that was emerging in early neocon circles. John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge's recent book, The Right Nation, devotes a paragraph to the Powell Memo -- drawn from Edwards's authorized history of the Heritage Foundation -- which reports that brewery magnate Joseph Coors was “stirred up” by the Powell Memo. According to Edwards's chronology, though, Coors was already financially committed to what became Heritage.

The most breathlessly detailed account of the Powell Memo appears on the website mediatransparency.org, one of the best resources for tracking conservative funding, in an article dated 2002 by Jerry Landay. This is probably the source of most of the recent interest in the memo. While the Landay article contains everything there is to know about the memo, including the specific newspaper clippings that Powell attached to personal letters that he sent to friends accompanying the memo, it falls short of establishing its premise that the memo “changed America.” Other than the Pacific Legal Foundation and the tenuous Coors-Heritage connection, it's hard to find much evidence that the memo served as a direct blueprint for the institutions that followed. And there is no evidence that after the brief flurry of interest stirred by Anderson in 1972, the memo was even read by the founders and funders of the right.

Still, some of Powell's recommendations do bear an uncanny resemblance to the institutions of the modern right. Powell's sketch of battalions of lawyers to counter Nader and the ACLU seem to foreshadow not just Pacific Legal but several similar legal foundations and the Federalist Society system for training ideologically minded lawyers. His proposal to closely monitor and harass the media for anti-business and liberal bias represents a strategy that David Brock has shown is key to the right but by the time of the memo, Reed Irvine's Accuracy In Media was already two years old. His proposals to badger colleges to balance liberal and conservative views seem eerily similar to recent crusades on the same issue.

In other respects, though, the memo seems far out of touch with the concerns and structures of the current right. For one thing, it is entirely focused on the Chamber of Commerce itself, and Powell proposed that most of the activities be undertaken within the chamber. That didn't happen, and the chamber wasn't even that closely allied with the right until 1994, when it was forced to respond to the more aggressive oppositional politics of the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business.

More significantly, it's not at all clear that what Powell was talking about was really modern conservatism, in the sense of the Goldwater/Reagan/Gingrich challenge to the status quo that Blumenthal called “the Counterestablishment.” The memo reads as much more of a call for the mainstream establishment to defend itself against critics from the further left. The critics of “the free-enterprise system” that Powell mentions by name, besides Nader, are William Kunstler, Herbert Marcuse, Charles Reich, and Eldridge Cleaver, celebrity New Leftists of the 1960s. While one of the legal institutions that now promotes “Constitution in Exile” dogma may have been inspired by the memo, as a Justice, Powell was the swing vote on a more liberal Court, and wary of the judicial power he would have been shocked by nostalgia for pre-New Deal activism. Powell emphasizes that the critics he's concerned with represent “the minority” even on campus. There is no attack on FDR or even LBJ here, none of the William F. Buckley pose of a conservative “remnant” lost in a culture gone soft and statist -- attitudes that fueled most of the counterestablishment institutions.

Obviously, the Powell Memo had some impact, along the lines Judis identified. (It's actually surprising, given the era of split-second political warfare in which we live, to realize just how complacent big business had been toward Nader and other challengers at the time.) But it's clear on reading it that it's no more the blueprint for what followed than Leonardo daVinci's drawings are design for the modern helicopter. Other documents, such as a White House memo by Patrick Buchanan, probably have at least equal claim to have foreseen the political and institutional structures of the right, and most of those structures were simply created by entrepreneurial activists operating from no plan at all.

So why has the Powell Memo risen to this canonical status? Presumably because it helps tell the story of the institutions that support the modern right in a tidy, accessible way, and one that shows how similar institutions of the left could be designed and built. It's probably served that purpose, making the task of building an alternative intellectual infrastructure to develop progressive ideas less intimidating.

But it's also a little too easy, and misleading. It implies that all liberals need to do is find our Powell, get the memo written, and implement our plan. Stand back and watch the course of history shift back our way.

But the reality of the right is that there was no plan, just a lot of people writing their own memos and starting their own organizations -- some succeeding, some failing, false starts, mergers, lots of money well spent, and lots of money wasted. Whether that's the model for the revival of the left, or not, it's a truth worth acknowledging.

Mark Schmitt is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and was formerly director of policy at the Open Society Institute. He writes a blog on policy and politics, The Decembrist.

The Story of Lewis Payne by Allie Ward

Lewis Payne His story started like that of many young men in the South. Lewis Thornton Powell was the youngest son of nine children born to the Baptist minister and plantation owner George Calder Powell. The Powell family was forced to sell their …

Lewis Payne

His story started like that of many young men in the South. Lewis Thornton Powell was the youngest son of nine children born to the Baptist minister and plantation owner George Calder Powell. The Powell family was forced to sell their Alabama plantation due to financial difficulties when Lewis was young and moved to Live Oak, Florida, to start anew on a family farm. When news came that the Confederacy was in need of volunteers, Lewis and his two older brothers joined their ranks on May 30, 1861. Private Powell and the 2 nd Florida Infantry first marched into battle during the siege of Yorktown in April 1862. After this the 2 nd was attached to Jubal Early’s Brigade and participated in numerous battles including Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Gains Mill, Second Manassas, Harpers Ferry, Sharpsburg, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.

However, it was the Battle of Gettysburg that altered the path of Powell’s life. It is unclear when Powell was injured. Osborn Oldroyd and Leon Prior claim he received a wound to his wrist during Pickett’s Charge, however Edward Steers claims Powell was injured on the second day of the battle.

In any event, the wound was serious enough for hospitalization. Powell, now a prisoner of war, was taken to the makeshift hospital at Pennsylvania College. The conditions at the college were not ideal as there was little food and insufficient beds and bedding for the estimated 600 wounded treated there. Doctors, volunteer medical staff, and people from the town worked tirelessly to provide whatever they could for the wounded for over a month as Pennsylvania Hall was used as a hospital. One indicator of the scope of the hospital operation on the campus is the fact that Pennsylvania College received $625 from the federal government in a post-war damage claim.

Volunteers came from all over to aid the wounded from the battle. An officer from the North Carolina 47 th regiment wrote in a letter that the sweet Southern ladies who came up from Baltimore were much more sympathetic to the wounded Confederates, while the Northern ladies treated everyone equally. Lewis Powell quickly befriended one of the volunteer nurses from Baltimore named Margaret Branson. Powell assisted Branson during her rounds, helping his fellow wounded despite his injured wrist. Powell soon acquired the nickname Doc. While it is unclear if Powell and Branson had a romantic relationship, the two became close enough that she aided in Powell’s escape when he was transferred to a prison near Baltimore, and even sheltered him for a time in her family’s boardinghouse.

Whether he still felt a sense of patriotic duty toward the Confederacy or because he did not want to miss any glory to be had in continuing to fight, Powell left Baltimore for Northern Virginia and reenlisted with Colonel John S. Mosby’s cavalry unit during the winter of 1863. Powell served as a Confederate ranger until January 1865. He then deserted his unit, assumed the alias Lewis Payne, and took the oath of allegiance in Alexandria, Virginia. Powell, now Payne, then made his way back to Baltimore and Margaret Branson.

While a few sources claim that Payne could possibly have met John Wilkes Booth during the beginning of the war at a theatrical performance, it is commonly held that they were reacquainted or introduced for the first time during this second stay with the Bransons. It would seem Booth was taken with Payne form the start and never had any reservations about Payne or his commitment to their cause. Payne was a frequent visitor to Mary Surratt’s boardinghouse, which Andrew Johnson referred to as the “nest that hatched the egg” of assassination. Booth would later claim that Payne was the only one he ever trusted with the full details of his plans against Lincoln and the Executive Branch. Payne’s part in Booth’s plot was to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward. Payne came remarkably close to completing his mission. Due to an earlier carriage accident Seward was bedridden and Payne was able to stab the helpless man multiple times before family members could force Payne from the home. Payne was arrested a few days later when he returned to the boardinghouse where Booth had planned the attack.

The question is, why? Why attack the President and the Executive Branch? This remains nearly as hotly debated in 2012 as it was in 1865. Many scholars have put forth the idea that Booth was attempting to buy the Confederacy time to regroup, but does this reason apply to Powell as well?

Some sources believe this to be true. However, if Powell was such an ardent Confederate, then why did he suddenly desert his cavalry unit and take the oath of allegiance? William Doster, Powell’s attorney, attempted to make the case that Powell was mentally unstable and therefore incapable of making moral decisions. However, toward the end of his trial Powell told authorities in a interview that what he most regretted was going back to the Surratt’s boardinghouse because it subsequently led to the arrest of Mary Surratt, who he had wanted to protect. Powell also was said to have shown signs of remorse and wished to apologize to Seward. This in conjunction with his time assisting the wounded in Gettysburg, would seem to contradict any claims of insanity or moral incapability.

It is more likely that Powell was acting out of pure self interest. Perhaps Powell was in search of a moment of glory. When he first left home to fight he did so because he believed he was protecting his rights and because he did not want to miss out on the events he believed were going to define his generation. The fact that Powell reenlisted twice during the war, once after he had found a safe haven in Baltimore with Branson, would seem to support the idea that Powell felt some s
ort of compulsion to fight. While he originally wished to rejoin his Florida regiment, Powell settled with Colonel Mosby’s Virginia cavalry unit, suggesting it was the fight Powell was after not a gallant notion of brotherhood. Furthermore, it was after an embarrassing loss against Union forces that Powell decided to desert and take the oath of allegiance under the assumed name of Payne, further distancing himself from the dishonor of the loss. Moreover, the alias Powell used while assisting Booth was likely meant to be his safety net. Should their plans succeed he could reveal his true self and bask in the glory of being a savior of the South, should they fail he could used the alias to hide his shame from his family. Thus, Powell likely joined with Booth for the very basic human reason of self interest.

Fortenbaugh, Robert. “The College During the War.” In The history of Gettysburg College, 1832-1932 by Samuel Hefelbower, 178-229. York, Pa.: Gettysburg College, 1932.

Holzer, Harold, and Edward Steers. The Lincoln assassination conspirators their confinement and execution, as recorded in the letterbook of John Frederick Hartranft. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009.

Oldroyd, Osborn H.. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln flight, pursuit, capture, and punishment of the conspirators,. Washington, D.C.: O.H. Oldroyd, 1901.

Prior, Leon. “Lewis Payne, Pawn of John Wilkes Booth.” The Flordia Historical Quartly 43, no. 1 (1964): 1-20.

Steers, Edward. The trial: the assassination of President Lincoln and the trial of the conspirators. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 2003.

Steers, Edward. The Lincoln assassination encyclopedia. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010


Was Billy Powell's father the grandfather of Lewis Powell?

Genealogy researcher James Lee of Alabama says he has traced both men through the bloodline of English-born trader William Powell.

Even if historians are never able to prove the two Powells were related, the pair share a remarkably common fate.

Both men were born in Alabama in the 1800s. Both migrated to Florida with their families. Both committed notorious acts because of their commitment to failing causes. Both died in the custody of the Unites States government. The skulls of both men were removed after death and kept as souvenirs.

And the final remains of both men remain a mystery.

If the names Lewis Powell and Billy Powell are not familiar to most people, certainly their deeds are.

Billy Powell changed his name to Osceola. Lewis Powell was tried and hanged under his alias, Lewis Paine.

Osceola became the best-known resistance leader of the Seminoles and other Florida tribes. Lewis Powell was the Floridian who joined John Wilkes Booth's plot to murder Abraham Lincoln and other national leaders.

Lee, who has researched the Powell genealogy for his family, says his ancestors were part of the Norman conquest of England. But it is his family ties to an Englishman in Alabama during the early 1800s that bind the two famous Floridians.

William Powell was living among the Tallassee clan when his second wife, a Creek woman named Polly Copinger, gave birth to a son in 1804 or 1805. They named him Billy. Soon, disagreements among Southeastern tribes and a forced treaty with the United States led many to leave their lands. The Powells would flee south as refugees.

Billy Powell's parents separated near the Alabama-Florida border. Billy and his mother continued their flight to Florida. William Powell moved east into Georgia with one or two daughters from his first marriage. In a third marriage, Powell fathered a daughter, Caroline Patience Powell, in Jones County, Ga. He died in the War of 1812.

In Talbot County, Ga., Caroline Powell married a distant cousin, George Cader Powell. They named the eighth of their 12 children Lewis.

Before Lewis Powell's birth, young Billy Powell had grown up in Florida to become one of the most recognized of the Seminole leaders. He had shed his father's name to become Osceola. He also shed his father's European culture, adopting the Creek traditions and pledging to fight other leaders who didn't share his commitment to resisting the U.S. Army.

Osceola would lead hit-and-run raids against the Army, and newspapers recorded his exploits. But disease, poor nutrition and the scarcity of ammunition eventually led Osceola to truce talks with army officers. Osceola's refusal to accept the army's terms landed the leader in prison. Suffering from fevers, Osceola was among 237 Seminoles who on December 31, 1837, were taken from St. Augustine to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island near Charleston, S.C. He died there on Jan. 31, 1838, at age 34.

Army doctor Frederick Weedon removed the famous leader's head before burial and kept it as a souvenir, displaying it at his St. Augustine drugstore.

After Weedon's death, the family donated Osceola's head to the specimen collection of a New York surgeon, who later gave it to a museum at the Medical College of the City of New York. A fire in 1866 is believed to have destroyed the museum and its contents.

At the time of Lewis Powell's birth, Osceola was regarded as a hero, the legendary martyr of the Seminoles.

By the time he was a teen-ager, Lewis would go to war against the same army. His father, a Baptist preacher, had moved his family to Live Oak. Soon after the battlefield death of one of Lewis' older brothers and the maiming of another, Lewis, 17, enlisted in 1861 with the Hamilton Blues. But his fighting spirit soured as he faced battle after battle.

Defeat was facing the Confederacy when Booth pulled Powell into his plot to turn the course of the war. It began as a plan to kidnap the president and exchange him for Southern prisoners. When that plot fell apart, Booth persuaded Powell to join his plan to murder the president and other high-ranking officials.

The night Booth fatally shot Lincoln, Powell's mission had been to kill Secretary of State William Seward. The soldier bluffed his way into Seward's home, using the ruse of taking medicine to Seward. The secretary of state was recuperating from a carriage accident. Inside, Powell's gun misfired when he tried to shoot Seward's son. Determined to carry out Booth's orders, Powell fractured the son's skull with the butt of the revolver and pushed his way into the secretary's bedroom. There he stabbed the invalid Seward in the face and neck. Seward, though, would recover because most of the force from Powell's knife was deflected by leather bindings used to mend his earlier injuries.

Powell escaped from Washington but ran his horse into the ground in the process. For three days, he hid in a cemetery. Eventually, he returned to what he thought was a safe house, Mary Surratt's boardinghouse, where soldiers arrested him.

Powell was hanged on July 7, 1865, with Surratt and two others.

Powell's coffin was buried near the Washington gallows, but it would be moved several times. During one move, a funeral director took the skull from Powell's coffin. He kept it for many years until he gave it to an Army museum, which in 1898 gave it to the Smithsonian Institution.

It remained there until rediscovered and identified through markings, army records and forensic comparisons with photographs of Powell.

Powell's skull was returned to Florida last month and buried next to his mother's grave in a Geneva cemetery in northwest Seminole County.

The Right-Wing Legacy Of Justice Lewis Powell And What It Means For The Supreme Court Today

Chances are if you were asked to name the most influential conservative Supreme Court justice of the last 60 years, you'd nominate the late Antonin Scalia. And you'd have any number of compelling reasons to do so.

Whether you liked him or loathed him, Scalia was a jurisprudential giant, pioneer of the "originalist" theory of constitutional interpretation, consistent backer of business interests, and the author of the 2008 landmark majority decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which recognized an individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. His death in February left a vacancy that has become a hot-button issue in the runup to the November election.

But for all of Scalia's impact--and notwithstanding the political shivers and convulsions his demise has sparked--I have another contender, or at least a close runner-up, in mind: the late Lewis F. Powell Jr.

"Lewis F. Powell Jr.?" you might ask, with just a trace of skepticism. "Wasn't he the one-time corporate lawyer whom New York Times columnist Linda Greenhouse eulogized in her 1998 obituary as a 'voice of moderation and civility' during his 15-year tenure on the court?"

Yes, that guy. But while Powell has been widely commemorated by Greenhouse and others as both a centrist, a lifelong Democrat and a judicial workhorse, writing more than 500 opinions, his most significant contribution to American legal history was made in secret, some five months before his January 1972 elevation to the bench, and it was anything but moderate.

On Aug. 23, 1971, Powell penned a confidential 6,400-word memorandum and sent it off to his friend and Richmond, Va., neighbor, Eugene Sydnor Jr., then-chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce education committee and head of the now-defunct Southern Department Stores chain.

The memo, titled "Attack on American Free Enterprise System," was breathtaking in its scope and ambition, and far more right-wing than anything Scalia ever wrote. It was, as writer Steven Higgs noted in a 2012 article published by CounterPunch, "A Call to Arms for Class War: From the Top Down."

Back in 1971, when the memo was prepared, Powell was a well-connected partner in the Richmond-based law firm of Hutton, Williams, Gay, Powell and Gibson and sat on the boards of 11 major corporations, including the tobacco giant Philip Morris. He also had served as chairman of the Richmond School Board from 1952 to '61 and as president of the American Bar Association from 1964 to '65. In 1969, he declined a nomination to the Supreme Court offered by President Nixon, preferring to remain in legal practice, through which he reportedly had amassed a personal fortune.

Powell and other business leaders of the era were convinced that American capitalism was in the throes of an existential crisis. A liberal Congress had forced Nixon to create the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupation and Health Administration. At the same time, consumers were making headway against corporate abuse, both in the courts and legislatively. And the anti-war and the black and brown civil rights movements were all gathering steam and scaring the bejesus out of the corporate oligarchy.

"No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack," Powell began his analysis. "There always have been some who opposed the American system, and preferred socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism)."

"But now what concerns us," he continued, "is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts."

In particular, Powell identified college campuses as hotbeds of dangerous zealotry, fueled by charismatic Marxist professors such as Herbert Marcuse of the University of California, San Diego, along with inspiring New Left lawyers like William Kunstler and Ralph Nader. Together, these "spokesmen" (the male noun being used throughout) were succeeding not only in "radicalizing thousands of the young," but in Powell's view also winning over "respectable liberals and social reformers. It is the sum total of their views and influence which could indeed fatally weaken or destroy the system."

Sounding like an inverted caricature of Vladimir Lenin, who in his seminal pamphlet "What is to be Done?" pondered how the Russian Bolsheviks might seize power, Powell asked directly in the memo, "What specifically should be done?" to awaken the business community from its torpor, spur it to counter the New Left and reassert its political and legal hegemony.

The first step, he reasoned, was "for businessmen to confront this problem [the threat to the system] as a primary responsibility of corporate management." In addition, resources and unity would be required.

"Strength," Powell wrote, "lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and the political power available only through united action and national organizations."

Deepening his call to action, Powell urged the Chamber of Commerce and other business entities to redouble their lobbying efforts and to "recruit" lawyers of "the greatest skill" to represent business interests before the Supreme Court, which under the stewardship of Chief Justice Earl Warren had moved steadily leftward. Powell wrote: "Under our constitutional system . the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change."

Apparently stirred by the urgency of the hour, Powell accepted Nixon's second invitation to join the Supreme Court, tendered in October 1971. He was confirmed by the full Senate two months later by a vote of 89-1, with the sole "nay" ballot cast by Democrat Fred Harris of Oklahoma, a maverick populist, who asserted that Powell was an "elitist" who lacked compassion for "little people." Powell took his seat the next January.

Powell's memo, although circulated and discussed within the Chamber and in wider business consortia, never came to light during his confirmation hearings, despite supposedly thorough vetting by the FBI. In fact, it came to public notice only in September 1972, when it was leaked to syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, who devoted two pieces that month to the memo, describing it as "a blueprint for an assault by big business on its critics." Powell's views, Anderson argued, "were so militant that [the memo] raises a question about his fitness to decide any case involving business interests."

Anderson's warnings fell largely on deaf ears. During his Supreme Court career (1972-1987)--a time when the panel was in transition from its liberal Warren epoch to its conservative reorientation under the leadership of Chief Justice William Rehnquist--Powell provided a reliable vote for corporate causes.

He was especially instrumental in helping to orchestrate the court's pro-corporate reconstruction of the First Amendment in the area of campaign finance law, which culminated years later in the 2010 Citizens United decision. He joined the court's seminal 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which equated money, in the form of campaign expenditures, with political speech. And he was the author of the 1978 majority opinion in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, which held that corporations have a First Amendment right to support state ballot initiatives.

But it is the secret memo that has proved to be Powell's most important and lasting legacy. Although he was not the only corporate leader to sound the counterrevolutionary alarm in the early '70s, his admonition for concerted action bore fruit almost immediately with the formation in 1972 of the Business Roundtable, the highly influential lobbying organization that within five years expanded its exclusive membership to include 113 of the top Fortune 200 corporations. Combined, those companies accounted for nearly half the output of the American economy.

The Roundtable was followed by a succession of new political think tanks and right-wing public interest law firms. These included the Heritage, Charles Koch, Castle Rock, Scaife, Lynde and Harry Bradley, and Olin foundations, among many others, as well as the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Federalist Society and, above all, the Chamber of Commerce National Litigation Center.

Established in 1977, the Chamber's Litigation Center has grown into the most formidable advocacy group regularly appearing before the Supreme Court. According to the Center for Constitutional Accountability, the Chamber has notched a gaudy 69-percent winning record since John Roberts' installation as chief justice in 2006. Together with its sister organizations, the Chamber has helped make the Roberts Court the most pro-business high tribunal since the 1930s..

Now, however, with Scalia departed and three sitting justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer) at least 80 years old and nearing inevitable retirement, the transformation of American law wrought by the institutions that Powell envisioned more than five decades ago is potentially at risk.

The next president--whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump--will have a historic opportunity to remake the nation's most powerful legal body. And while it may be safe to assume that any of the right-wing federal and state judges Trump thus far has floated to replace Scalia and fill any other vacancies would only further Powell's designs for a corporate court, it cannot be assumed that Clinton, with her longstanding ties to Wall Street, would appoint progressives just because she's a Democrat.

In all likelihood, if elected, Clinton would try to fill Scalia's spot with President Obama's current Supreme Court pick--District of Columbia Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland. Like Powell in his time, Garland is considered by most legal observers to be a moderate, with a reputation for collegiality.

Now, I am not suggesting that Garland has a skeleton in his closet on the order of Powell's secret memo, or that he wouldn't move the court incrementally to the left if he were to succeed Scalia. What I am saying is that neither he nor anyone else who might be tabbed by Clinton would merit a free pass simply on the basis of party affiliation or status in legal circles.

And that's precisely the point of revisiting the Powell memo and calling attention to its meaning for the Supreme Court today. No matter who is selected to sit on the Supreme Court or by whom, the public deserves a full accounting of any nominee's views and affiliations, along with exacting standards of accountability and transparency.

There should be no more nonsense like the blind spots that accompanied Powell, or the ham-fisted inanity offered by John Roberts at his 2005 Senate confirmation hearing, in which he compared justices to baseball umpires calling balls and strikes. Nor should there be any more refusals, a la Justice Samuel Alito at his 2006 hearing, in which he declined to articulate his actual positions on critical constitutional questions.

The time for such evasions and legalistic parsing is over. There's simply too much at stake.

Lewis Powell - History

Lewis Thornton Powell was born on April 22, 1844 in Randolph County, Alabama to a Baptist minister, George Cader Powell, and his wife Patience Caroline Powell. The youngest son of eight children, he spent the first three years of his life in Randolph County before his father was ordained and the family moved to Stewart County, Georgia. Powell and his siblings were all educated by their father.

Lewis seemed to have had a happy childhood that was carefree and enabled him to do all the things a young boy would do, fishing, studying, reading and caring for the sick animals on his father's farm. He was described by his siblings as being a caring, compassionate boy, who loved animals and seemed to be a natural healer.

When Lewis was 15, the family moved to Worth County, before finally moving to Live Oak, Florida in 1859.

On May 30, 1861 at age 17, Lewis left home to enlist in the 2nd Florida Infantry, Company I, 'Hamilton Blues' in Jasper, Florida. Sometime in November, 1862, he was hospitalized for "sickness" at General Hospital No. 11 in Richmond, Virginia. He went on to fight at numerous major battles unscathed, including Fredericksburg, Chancellorville, 2nd Manasses and Antietam, before being wounded in the right wrist and suffering a broken arm on the second day of fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, from where he was captured and sent to a POW hospital at Pennsylvania College. Powell stayed at Pennsylvania College until September, when he was transferred to West Buildings Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Lewis was able to escape from the hospital within a week of his arrival, fleeing to Alexandria, Virginia.

Back in Virginia, he joined the Mosby Rangers led by Colonel John Singleton Mosby in late fall 1863 and rode with the 43rd Battalion, Company B. After leaving the company, he returned to Baltimore on January 13, 1865, crossing the lines at Alexandria. During his time with the Rangers, in 1864, Powell became involved in the Confederate Secret Service. It was in Baltimore that he was arrested for beating an African American servant at the Branson boarding house. He was arrested and held in jail for 2 days on charges of being a "spy". Required to sign an Oath of Allegiance, he did so, under the name Lewis Paine. It was also in Baltimore that he met fellow CSS operative John Surratt through a man named David Preston Parr, also with the CSS. Through these connections he eventually met John Wilkes Booth.

Powell's part in the assassination was to kill Secretary of State, William H. Seward at his home. On April 14, at approximately 10pm at night, he attempted to do this, but failed.

Powell was executed with three other conspirators on July 7, 1865. He went to the gallows calmly and quietly, though at some point he was believed to have pleaded for the life of Mary Surratt shortly before he was hanged. His spiritual advisor, Rev. Gillette, thanked the guards for their good treatment of him while he was in prison, on his behalf. Powell insisted to his death that Mrs. Surratt was innocent.

Inside the Walls is the creation of John Elliott and Barry Cauchon, Lincoln conspirator researchers who are currently writing a book on the subject.

Lewis Powell – the handsome assassin of Abraham Lincoln

Lewis Thornton Powell (sometimes known as Payne) was one of the four conspirators hanged for their part in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He also looked like a GQ model. And his handsome features were rather tastelessly picked up by the new technology of photography.

Powell was tasked with killing US Secretary of State William H. Seward and managed to stab him several times but not fatally. Nevertheless, it was enough to earn him a place on the gallows with his fellow conspirators. And at the same time – he acquired a degree of celebrity which was quite modern.

In recent years, Lewis Powell has become noteworthy for the prison photographs taken at the time, which could easily grace the front cover of a men’s fashion magazine.

Lewis Powell – handsome but violent

Although Powell was a very striking young man (only 21 when he was executed), he did have a record of violence including a horrific attack on an African American maid. Powell had also supervised his father’s slave plantation before fighting with the Confederate side in the American Civil War.

The manner in which he tried to slaughter Seward suggested an unbalanced mind. Seward was already bed ridden after a carriage accident and Powell found his way into the great man’s bedroom and stuck a blade into his neck several times. Amazingly, the Secretary of State survived and indeed went on to serve under Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson.

Lewis Powell was arrested very soon after his botched murder attempt. This led to the prison photos that included him dressing up in different suits. He struck cocky poses and stared dreamily into the lens.

Quite why this was entertained by his captors is beyond me.

The hanging of Lewis Powell was a gruesome affair with him taking at least five minutes to die. One eye witness claimed that he writhed at the end of the noose with such vigour that at one point his knees rose so he was in a seated position.

Powell Archives History

In December 1989, Retired Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., announced his intention to leave his personal and professional papers to the Washington and Lee University School of Law. Powell, an alumnus of the College (1929) and the School of Law (1931), based his decision primarily on the commitment by Washington and Lee to build an addition to Sydney Lewis Hall to include areas which would both house his papers and facilitate their use by researchers. Construction on the Powell Wing began in 1990, the same year that the Powell Archivist was hired. The new facilities were dedicated on April 4, 1992.

The original schedule for the preparation of the Powell papers for research use foresaw the papers being assembled at Washington and Lee in 1991. They would have remained closed until arrangement and description were completed by the archivist and a full time assistant in 1996. This schedule was soon abandoned. For a myriad of reasons -- chiefly the delays in construction and in the publication of an authorized biography -- the papers were not substantially assembled in the archives until August 1993. Further, no one foresaw how prolific Justice Powell would remain for so long in his retirement. The bulk of these later papers were not transferred to the archives until December 1996. Finally, properly preserving the richness and complexity of the documentation within each of the 2,500 Supreme Court case files would have, in itself, made the original schedule impossible to meet.

The law school archives had not been idle during the three years that passed between its establishment and the arrival of a substantial body of the Powell Papers. The papers of U.S. Congressman M. Caldwell Butler, which had had come to the school in the late 1970's and early 1980's were processed, and opened for general research. Manuscript and archival materials discovered in closets and machine rooms of the law school were brought to the archives and prepared for research use. The Powell Archivist served on a university records management committee and conducted most of the record surveys authorized by that entity. He drafted preliminary records schedules and guidelines for the university. In this process, the Powell Archives was given authority and responsibility for School of Law records past and present.

By 1994, a multifaceted archival program, which included about a dozen manuscript collections, was in place in the law school. At this time, about seventy percent of the Powell papers had been delivered to the archives. They were stored in record cartons and preliminarily inventoried. A card index to the Supreme Court case files, which had been prepared by Justice Powell's secretary, facilitated highly accurate retrieval from that important series. With Justice Powell's permission (and within the access provisions previously established with him), the Archives declared the Powell Papers to be open to researchers in April of that year.

The delivery of information about the collection through the medium of the World Wide Web, also began around this time. The spreadsheet that would become the basis for all future Supreme Court case files finding aids was created in 2001.

In 2002, work was completed on an Encoded Archival Description (EAD) guide to the papers. It has been available both at this website and through the Virginia Heritage Project since 2003. Processing continued while the number of visiting researchers increased. As processing proceeded, an evolving guide to the papers, separate from but compatible with the EAD guide, was made available online.

In 2011, the page-by-page processing of the Supreme Court case files was completed. This is reflected in the highly accurate spreadsheet guide to this most important series. 2011 also saw the first availability of selected case file availability online through this site. This effort will continue.

Watch the video: Jesus of nazareth 1977 Powell interview subtitled