In January 1967, just as negro Bahamians were celebrating a pinnacle point, in their quiet revolution for political and economic parity in the country, a U.S. Congressional Committee investigation into financial improprieties of Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., then self-exiled in Bimini, threatened to scandalise the new negro Premier of the Bahamas, Lynden Oscar Pindling.
In fact, the furore surrounding Powell in America, was being used, both home and abroad, to overshadow the very moment negroes in the Bahamas could stand in the sunshine of the highest political achievement, they had managed to gain, in all of their history, in this tiny colony, of Great Britain.
ADAM CLAYTON POWELL
Despite Powell living in a self-imposed exile in Bimini from about 1965, until a few days before his death in 1972, he was still a member of the United States House of Representatives until 1971.
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (November 29, 1908 – April 4, 1972) was a Baptist pastor and an American politician. Powell represented Harlem, New York City, in the United States House of Representatives from 1945 to 1971. Although Powell was clearly mixed race, he was considered African-American. He was the first person of African-American descent to be elected from New York to Congress.
“In 1961, after 16 years in the House, Powell became chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, the most powerful position held by an African American in Congress. As Chairman, he supported the passage of important social and civil rights legislation under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Following allegations of corruption, in 1967 Powell was excluded from his seat by Democratic Representatives-elect of the 90th Congress, but he was re-elected and regained the seat in the 1969 United States Supreme Court ruling in Powell v. McCormack. He lost his seat in 1970 to Charles Rangel and retired from electoral politics.”
By the mid-1960s, Powell was increasingly being criticized for mismanaging his committee’s budget, taking trips abroad at public expense, and missing meetings of his committee. When under scrutiny by the press and other members of Congress for personal conduct—he had taken two young women at government expense with him on overseas travel—he responded:
I wish to state very emphatically… that I will always do just what every other Congressman and committee chairman has done and is doing and will do.”
Opponents led criticism in his District, where his refusal to pay a 1963 slander judgment made him subject to arrest; he also spent increasing amounts of time in Florida.
In January 1967, the House Democratic Caucus stripped Powell of his committee chairmanship. The full House refused to seat him until completion of an investigation by the Judiciary Committee. Powell urged his supporters to “keep the faith, baby,” while the investigation was under way. On March 1, the House voted 307 to 116 to exclude him. Powell said, “On this day, the day of March in my opinion, is the end of the United States of America as the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Powell won the Special Election to fill the vacancy caused by his exclusion, but he did not take his seat, as he was filing a separate suit. He sued in Powell v. McCormack to retain his seat.
In November 1968, Powell was re-elected. On January 3, 1969, he was seated as a member of the 91st Congress, but he was fined $25,000 and denied seniority.
In June 1969, in Powell v. McCormack, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the House had acted unconstitutionally when it excluded Powell, as he had been duly elected by his constituents.
Powell’s increasing absenteeism was noted by constituents, which contributed, in June 1970, to his defeat in the Democratic primary for reelection to his seat (by Charles B. Rangel). Powell failed to garner enough signatures to get on the November ballot as an Independent, and Rangel won that (and following) general elections.
In the fall of 1970, Powell moved to his retreat on Bimini in the Bahamas, also resigning as minister at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.
THE SCANDAL of 1967
By 1967, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. had been married three times. He was estranged from his third wife, who lived in Puerto Rico since 1961. In January 1967, a U.S. Congressional committee subpoenaed the estranged third wife, Yvette Marjorie Flores Powell. The Congressional Committee was investigating alleged”theft of state funds.”
This alleged and ongoing theft was related to Powell having employed his wife, paying her, but there being no record of any work done my Flores-Powell.
Under oath, Mrs. Powell admitted to the committee that she had been on the Congressional payroll of her former husband, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., from 1961 until 1967. She was a paid employee for almost seven years despite the fact that she had moved back to Puerto Rico in 1961.
Her salary was increased to $20,578 and she was paid until January 1967, when the whole scandal was exposed and Mrs. Flores-Powell was summarily fired.
It was more than obvious that Adam Clayton Powell had been using government funds, for all those years, to pay alimony to his third ex-wife, under the guise of her being a paid employee.
THE POWELL SCANDAL LINKED TO NEW BAHAMIAN PREMIER LYNDEN PINDLING
By 15th., February 1967, just about a month after the historic political win in the Bahamas of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and it’s Leader, new negro Premiere Lynden Pindling, further salacious allegations arose in America related to Adam Clayton Powell.
Out of the storm created by the revelations that Powell was paying his third ex-wife alimony out of government funds, new information was uncovered relating to an offshore company and bank account.
These allegations now related to Powell’s 25 year old secretary and travelling companion Corinne Huff and the secret company incorporated in the Bahamas in 1965 by then company lawyer and friend Lynden Pindling.
It was revealed that Pindling was the lawyer for the offshore company Huff Enterprises Ltd., incorporated in the Bahamas.
(The Tampa Times, Wednesday 15 February 1967)
THE FACTS REGARDING THE SHARES IN HUFF ENTERPRISES LTD. INCORPORATED IN THE BAHAMAS
New Premier Lynden Pindling under repeated pressure to explain his involvement was forced to reveal the particulars regarding his link to Adam Clayton Powell and his secretary, travelling companion and obvious girlfriend, Corinne Huff. It was during a trip to New York in late February 1967 to promote tourism in the Bahamas that Pindling was asked by reporters about his links with the now disgraced Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
Pindling informer reporters that Huff Enterprises was formed on May 14, 1965 with a house and a lot purchased for $15,000 and $16,000 as its then primary assets. There were 17 shares issued in the new company.
Pindling leader of the Progressive Liberal Party, the new ruling political party of the Bahamas, owned one share.
Jeffrey Thompson, his law partner, and new Minister for Internal Affairs, held one share.
Corrine Huff, who was living with Powell by 1967 at his home in Bimini, held five shares.
Another corner Powell secretary, Mrs. Emma Swann also held five shares.
The final five shares were held by G. Sumner Stone, Powell’s executive assistant.
Adam Clayton Powell Jr., was clever enough not to have his name included anywhere in the company filing documents.
(The Miami News, Thursday, 02 March 1967)
LEGAL FACTS CONCERNING INCORPORATED COMPANIES IN BAHAMAS 1967
Under Bahamian law in 1967, it was required that there be five incorporators, and since it was appropriate to have a legal advisor among the five, if only to take care of proper filing, Pindling as the attorney of record, took one share.
(The Kingston Daily, New York, Monday 06, March 1967)
New Premier Pindling Forced To Distance Himself From the Politically Embattled Adam Clayton Powell
The growing scandal surrounding Adam Clayton Powell in the United States could not have come at a worse time for Pindling and the Bahamas.
The Bahamas had just gotten its first negro political leader on January 10, 1967 and by February 1967, the leader Lynden Pindling was forced to defend himself, as the lawyer, and friend of Powell.
(The Daily News, New York, Tuesday 28 February 1967)
APRIL 1967 – NEW PREMIER LYNDEN PINDLING PROPOSES PAYING MINISTERS TO PREVENT THEM HOLDING PRIVATE JOBS ON GOVERNMENT TIME
When the proposal made by Premier Lynden Pindling that Bahamian Ministers of Government should be remunerated, was published in the London papers, it was met with a bit of wry British humour.
It was however a very serious and needed amendment to the way the political system in the Bahamas flowed up to that time. There was no line between private business and government business for the previous government. One went hand in hand with the other.
The previous UBP United Bahamian Party government were more than happy to forgo salaries because they had been making more than enough money using their government connections in their private business and professions.