The worst feeling in the world to wake up to two dozen text and phone calls that a friend has died. I drove past her home Friday and looked up. My heart knew but mind won’t let it be. I checked on Sen. Georgia Davis Powers on a regular basis. Initially, some 40 years ago, I had no idea what her title or position was I just knew her as a neighbor on Cecil Avenue in West Louisville. To hear that she died this morning my heart literally sunk. I’ve been preparing myself for about a week to get the call but its never easy. I even refused to write anything because I wanted to write it from the heart.
Georgia Davis Powers was born in Springfield, Kentucky on October 19, 1923. One of nine children in which she was the only girl. As a young girl the family moved to Louisville and eventually moved to the street that Cassius Clay known today as Muhammad Ali lived on, which was Grand Avenue. She used to joke about babysitting Ali along with her brothers. She would marry her first husband Norman Davis and adopt a son, William “Billy” Davis. I know her second husband James Powers because that’s when we met. Well, being four years old on a tricycle is actually how we met. My job was to ride my bike from my parents house to Senator Power’s house and back. I had the opportunity to speed up and down that five house distance to my pleasure without a care in the world. While she was making history.
Who would of thought that 20 years later after college, I would talk to her and she referenced that I was the pretty little girl that had the two long ponytails that used her house as a marker to turn around and ride back down the street. Back then everyone knew their neighbors and actually looked out for them. She talked about my parents being the cute young couple that moved on the block.
I was so shocked when she said that. I used to see her and her husband jump into a big beautiful car and I used to say “I want a car like that when I grow up.” Not knowing that her husband owned a car dealership and that in 1967 she was the first person of color and the first woman elected to the Kentucky State Senate.
Senator Powers worked actively for many years in the NAACP and that’s when she along with the president of the Louisville chapter gave me opportunities to work along side them and helped me perfect so many of the things I do today. I’ve had countless chances to sit and listen to the senator. When I started working for WHAS11 Television she would always say “If you ever need anything just call me” and I did. We were together when the Western Branch Library celebrated their 100th birthday to the 2010 renaming of the Shawnee Expressway to the Georgia Davis Powers Expressway. She used to call the newsroom and say “Sherlene I need for you to talk to your guys they just said the name of the expressway incorrect.” I would say yes ma’am and get it changed. To many its something minor but for a woman that changed the climate of Kentucky politics it’s a major thing.
I would sit in the living room and talk about her 1964 March on the State Capitol in Frankfort. She along with other leaders wanted to support equity in public accommodations. Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and baseball legend Jackie Robinson walked with Powers.
She was very open with me about her friendship with Dr. King. She even told me that she was at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when King was assassinated in 1968.
Powers retired from her seat in the Kentucky Senate in 1988 but her civil and human rights never stopped. Just a few days ago she posted something on her social media page, yes, she had a page.
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