Marian "Mamie" Rather Powell

Marian “Mamie” Rather Powell (May 2, 1881- August 25, 1974) was an active supporter of suffrage and education in Huntsville. Born to Rawley Samuel Rather and Mary Caroline Henry Rather, children of some of the earliest settlers in Huntsville, “Mamie” was raised by parents who valued education. Like both her father and mother before her, she attended college, graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 1902. After graduation, she returned to Huntsville to teach at Huntsville High School from 1907 to 1909 and was appointed by the Governor to the staff of Sam Houston Normal Institute in 1909, where she taught in both the History and Math departments. While on staff, she composed the college song, at the request of President Harry Estill, for the school’s Homecoming in 1910. Her teaching career came to an end in 1913, when she resigned in order to marry Benjamin “Ben” Harrison Powell III.

Throughout her life, Mamie Powell was active in organizations that fought for women, education, and the needy. She was the chairwoman of Walker County's women's suffrage association prior to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and subsequently became the first woman to serve as a member of the Huntsville School Board. She was also involved in the League of Women Voters, the World War Food Conservation and Red Cross Committees.

In 1920, Powell and her husband moved to Austin, where she became involved in many historical societies, including the American History Club, the Thankful Hubbard Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames of America, and the Texas Fine Arts Association. She was involved with both the Episcopal and Methodist churches throughout her life.

Mamie and Judge Ben Powell used their resources to promote philanthropy and community service throughout their lives. When their second son, Rawley Rather Powell died at the age of 5 after a tonsillectomy, they set aside a wildwood sanctuary at the edge of Oakwood Cemetery. It is made up of nearly 4 acres of land donated by the Powell family and includes the Rawley Rather Powell Memorial Park. In memory of their son, they also had a full size bronze replica of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorwaldsen's "The Christus" or “The Comforting Christ” commissioned and placed in the Wildwood Sanctuary at their son’s grave. Due to the weathering of the bronze throughout the past century, locals refer to the statue as “The Black Jesus.” In 1953, the Powells also donated “The Song Window” to Sam Houston State University. This beautiful window was located in the Old Main Building, until both were destroyed in a fire on February 12, 1982.

Mamie Powell was widowed in 1960 and continued to live in her home, “Montwalk,” until her death in 1974. She was buried alongside her family in Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville.

Images

Young Mamie Rather

Young Mamie Rather

This colorized photograph of Mamie Powell is assumed to have been taken around the time of her graduation from the University of Texas in 1902. After graduation she would teach at Huntsville High School and then at the Normal Institute. View File Details Page

Painting of Mamie Powell (photo)

Painting of Mamie Powell (photo)

Marian "Mamie" Rather Powell was a much loved public figure in both Huntsville and Austin, Texas. She is remembered for her work as a suffragette, Huntsville school board member, writer of the Sam Houston school song and for her work with innumerable women's clubs and charitable organizations. | Source: Huntsville Historical Commission View File Details Page

The Huntsville Item Obituary

The Huntsville Item Obituary

On August 28, 1974, The Huntsville Item published their obituary for Marian "Mamie" Rather Powell. She is described as "a state leader" and her many achievements, both in Huntsville and Austin are listed. | Source: Walker County Historical Commission View File Details Page

Marian Rather Powell Gravesite

Marian Rather Powell Gravesite

Marian Rather Powell left a legacy in Huntsville that includes advancement in women's suffrage and education. After her death, her estate funded The Judge Ben H. Powell Award which was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System. This endowment benefits the School of Law. | Source: http://billiongraves.com/pages/record/MarianRatherPowell/3385954 View File Details Page

"Comforting Christ"

"Comforting Christ"

After the death of their young son, Rawley Rather Powell, the Powell's donated land to be used as a Wildwood Sanctuary in Oakwood Cemetery. This bronze, "Comforting Christ" was a replica of a famous Danish work of Bertel Thorwaldsen. | Source: Alexey Sergeev, http://www.asergeev.com/pictures/k/Oakwood_cemetery_Huntsville_Texas.htm View File Details Page

Rawley Rather Home

Rawley Rather Home

Marian Rather Powell was raised in this home in downtown Huntsville. It was built in the 1880s at the corner of University Avenue and 13th Street and was torn down in 1977 to make way for Rather Park. | Source: Walker County Treasures, Huntsville, Texas View File Details Page

Rawley and Mary Rather

Rawley and Mary Rather

Marian Rawley Rather's parents, Rawley Rather and Mary Henry were natives of Huntsville. Their parents were among the first settlers in Huntsville. This picture was taken in 1886 when they were 33 and 32 years old. | Source: Walker County History. Huntsville Public Library Digital Archives. View File Details Page

"Huntsville" (song)

"Huntsville" (song)

This undated song was written by Marian Rather Powell. It speaks of the early days of Huntsville while Native Americans were the original people. Its chorus shows her deep love and commitment to her community. | Source: City of Huntsville. http://www.huntsvilletx.gov/eGov/apps/document/center.egovzview=detail&id=6330 View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Allison Baughman, “Marian "Mamie" Rather Powell,” East Texas History, accessed June 26, 2017, http://easttexashistory.org/items/show/22.

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