Roger Kaiser lost a good friend Monday, as did Georgia Tech.
Josh Powell died after a long fight with multiple myeloma at the age of 70. Powell was a teammate of Kaiser, the Tech basketball legend, and more importantly, a friend from their days at Tech until now.
“I’ll remember him as a great friend and a man with a warm heart that was fun to be around,” Kaiser said Tuesday.
Powell was a man of many gifts. Besides his basketball talents – he was part of Tech’s first NCAA tournament team, in 1960, and captained the team in 1962 – he was an accomplished singer and musician and also a pilot. Most interestingly, he graduated from Emory Law School but within months left an Atlanta practice to start his own summer camp – Josh Powell Summer Day Camp – with his wife in Acworth. Started in 1972, it’s still in operation.
Powell’s passing allowed me to dig into the paper’s online archives to read a typically vivid feature written in 1988 by ex-AJC great Jack Wilkinson. After deciding the law wasn’t for him – “I thought, ‘There’s got to be more than this,’” Powell told Jack – he bought land in Cherokee County. Spurred, presumably, by the enjoyment he had working at a sports day camp in Buckhead to help pay for law school, he decided to start a day camp.
Here’s a morsel from the story.
Besides the maintenance, there are buses to gas up and popsicles to pick up for the afternoon treat. And there are all the little things and little people to deal with. To Powell, that’s far more enjoyable than taking depositions. Listen:
“Ben, you doing all right with Cory?” . . . “Claire, why is your face so red?” . . . “Hamilton, did you get all your frogs home alive?”
“He decided he didn’t want to be a lawyer,” Kaiser said. “I said, ‘It took you an awful long time to decide. You go through law school and then you decide you don’t want to be one.’”
Kaiser and Powell traded playful jabs frequently.
“We played together for two years,” Kaiser said. “Of course, somebody asked him what kind of player he was. He said he didn’t get to do much except pass the ball to me and set picks. He didn’t know if he can catch and shoot it or not.”
Powell accused Kaiser of being the teacher’s pet of Jackets coach Whack Hyder.
“I’d always say, ‘Josh, Coach told me that whoever could shoot the best should shoot it,’” Kaiser said. “I said, ‘I could shoot it better than you, so I did.’”
If you’ve attended Tech basketball games in the past, you may well have heard Powell singing the national anthem at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. It sounds like the last time was in the 2009-10 season, when the 1960 team was honored. Powell, wearing his Tech warm-up top, hunched and walking with a cane, belted it out.
He also sang at Braves games and even performed in operas. At the first home football game after 9/11, Powell led Bobby Dodd Stadium in singing “God Bless America.”
Said Kaiser, “It about tore the stadium up.”
(Even this story came with another dig. Kaiser and Powell rode to the stadium together and Powell humbly didn’t even mention to his buddy why he was wearing a tie. Kaiser asked him when the last time he’d been to a football game was, because the days of wearing ties to games were past. Powell replied he was sitting in the west stands and Kaiser said, “Fella, (even) the people in the west stands don’t wear ties anymore.” After they went to their separate seats, Said Kaiser, “I looked up and there he was (on the field). I said, ‘Oh, my gosh.’”)
Kaiser said Powell was independent, honest and giving. It was hard for Kaiser to return the many favors Powell did for him.
A memorial service will be held Sunday at North Avenue Presbyterian Church at 3 p.m. He is survived by his wife Karen and daughter Julie.
Said Kaiser, “He was a good one.”