Addie Powell, a historic-preservation advocate for Augusta’s Bethlehem neighborhood, died Tuesday. She was 90.
Powell was surrounded by family in the Twiggs Street home owned by her family for generations.
She worked closely with city leaders and the black community to fight efforts to raze dilapidated homes in Bethlehem during the 1990s and 2000s.
“Some people would say she was only for the black community, but she always told me civil rights had nothing to do with just being African-American,” said Powell’s granddaughter Frances Rhodes.
Powell was born in Augusta and raised by her aunt after her mother died in childbirth. She graduated from Paine College and left the area to attend a creative writing program at the University of Iowa in the 1940s.
Powell returned to Augusta and worked at the Wallace Branch Library. For about 20 years, she lived in New York City and retired as a district librarian for the Brooklyn Public Library system.
During her retirement, Powell worked to protect the rich black history in Augusta, Rhodes said.
She led efforts to earn Bethlehem’s national historic district designation and also advocated for a historic designation for the Laney-Walker neighborhood that was rescinded by the city. She was featured in an Augusta State University student documentary, Great Black Women Who Have Changed the Face of the CSRA, in 2001.
“Had it not been for Addie, no one would recognize Bethlehem as a significant historic neighborhood,” said Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta, Inc. “She never saw an old house she thought should be torn down.”
A drive through Bethlehem with Powell became a fascinating history lesson about the people and stories behind every church, home and store, Montgomery said.
Powell also served on the Georgia African American Historic Preservation Network for many years and with current Chairman Isaac Johnson. Car rides to Atlanta for board meetings turned into telephone conference calls as Powell’s health declined in recent years.
“She was still working to the end. She was still asking questions,” Johnson said.