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.

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