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Lula Powell Drive unveiled to honor former Green Magnet Academy principal
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 2, 2015
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Contact: Amanda Shell Jennings
LHP Capital, LLC, the City of Knoxville, elected officials, friends and family gathered at a street renaming dedication to honor Dr. Lula Powell, the legendary East Knoxville educator and businesswoman on Friday, Oct. 2.
“This is an honor and a very exciting time for my family,” Powell said. “Since I’ve been here so long, people say I represent what is good in the community, and there are a lot of good things in East Knoxville.”
At the event, Deputy to the Mayor Christi Branscom presented a proclamation from Mayor Madeline Rogero and declared the day “Lula Powell Day” in Knoxville before unveiling the new street sign.
“Dr. Powell has touched the lives of thousands in more than 40 years as an educator and businesswoman,” Branscom said. “Passing by this street every day will be a reminder of the strength of the community and Dr. Powell’s passion to promote new opportunities in East Knoxville.”
Lula Powell Drive runs in front of Green Magnet Academy, where Powell served as principal for 27 years. The street also holds the entrance to Townview Towers, an apartment development co-owned by LHP Capital, LLC and Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation that is currently undergoing a $10 million renovation.
“As we upgrade affordable housing in the community, we proactively look for opportunities to further reinvigorate and inspire change in the neighborhood,” said Alvin Nance, CEO of development and property management for LHP Capital.
“Because of her many years of service, Dr. Lula Powell is a symbol for those living in East Knoxville of positive momentum. We believe that great things will happen on a street named for such a motivational woman.”
The renovation of Townview Towers and the adjacent Arbor Place apartments, which will be renamed to 1100 Studio Apartments and Pinnacle Park, represent a $21.6 million investment in redevelopment in downtown Knoxville, the largest capital investment in downtown’s history.
LHP Capital requested the street name change with the City of Knoxville to serve as a positive banner for the area’s future. When LHP Capital Chairman Phil Lawson began considering a name change for Town View Drive as part of the large-scale redevelopment, he consulted with Beck Cultural Exchange Center Board Chairman Sam Anderson and Executive Director Reneé Kesler who immediately suggested Lula Powell because of her long-time connection to the community and Green Magnet Academy.
“When people approached me about renaming the street, they said they wanted a new beginning,” Powell said. “In this area, we do need that. All communities have ups and downs, but all the people I work with are very good people. If we have this kind of faith, then I can see where things will bloom again.”
Powell began her career as an educator in 1959 as an elementary school teacher with Knoxville City Schools. In 1966, she became a traveling librarian and helped set up the first school libraries at Sam E. Hill, Eastport and Maynard elementary schools.
In 1975, she became the principal at Green, and she led the school through the transition to a magnet academy in 1994. Powell integrated the curriculum of mathematics, science and technology into the classroom.
“This was a big change,” Powell said. “One of the things I remember the most clearly was the science, math and computer areas that were added to the school. These were areas that the students were not previously exposed to. This led the way to equal opportunities to perform.”
According to Powell, one of the prevailing and mistaken attitudes that had to be overcome was the perception that inner-city children could not or were not willing to learn. Powell and her team of teachers repeatedly proved that perception incorrect, and the school was recognized by the Tennessee Department of Education as an exemplary school during her tenure.
“I never had any problem with our boys and girls,” Powell said. “My grown students come tell me what they are doing today, and it’s really amazing.”
After retiring from the school system in 2001, Powell and her son, AV Powell, took over the operation of Unity Mortuary, the family business founded by her late husband, William Powell, a former city councilman and longtime KCDC executive. Powell continues to support the community through her work at the mortuary, and many of her clients are former students that she is able to help during difficult times in their lives when they have lost a loved one.
Powell also is a member of the Alliance of Doctoral Women, a small group of women with higher education degrees who offer scholarships to women seeking doctorate or law degrees.
“When I got my doctorate, there was not group like that to encourage you,” Powell said. “Women, in general, have always been the ones held back. We feel very strongly that with our meager funds, we want to support a scholarship each year.”
Throughout her long and varied career, Powell has been honored with many awards, including Educator of the Year by the Knoxville Area Urban League; Business Woman of the Year by Iota Phi Lambda Sorority Alpha Xi Chapter; Outstanding Contributions to Knoxville Community from the Tennessee Education Association; and Alumni Hall of Fame at W.J. Hale High School in Maryville, Tenn., and Knoxville College.
Looking ahead, Powell said she believes changing the names of streets and developments in East Knoxville will bring a fresh start for the neighborhood.
“Any time you have upgrading in the community, change sparks people to look again at what we have here,” Powell said. “This is helping to start the way, and it looks good, too, when you’re coming down the street. They say it’s a new beginning, and I think that’s what we’ll have.”