Julian F. ‘Josh' Powell, 70, founded day camp for kids

Just 10 months into his legal career, Josh Powell left a major Atlanta law firm 40 years ago to start a summer day camp for grade school boys and girls.

"The big firm wasn't a good fit for Josh," said Bucky Askew, a Chicago attorney and fellow Emory University Law School graduate. "Josh could have been a huge success on his own or with a small-town firm, but he had worked his way through law school operating a kids camp, and that became his life's work."

As Mr. Powell told an Atlanta Journal interviewer in 1988, he had "an insatiable desire to work for myself; I didn't want to be beholden to anyone."

So for eight weeks each summer over the next 38 years, Mr. Powell attracted thousands of rising first-, second- and third-graders to the Josh Powell Summer Day Camp in Cherokee County for nature lore, sports instruction, arts and crafts, story hours and songfests.

His wife, Karen Powell, said the camp now serves sons and daughters of his original campers. She added it will continue to operate this summer and beyond.

Mr. Powell created the camp himself, clearing land and constructing a sawmill to prepare the lumber he used to build 15 camp structures. Only with the swimming pool and a man-made lake did he require help.

When camp was in session, he was administrator, organizer, mentor and coach. He also was bus driver, bringing kids to camp and rendezvousing with parents at the end of the day.

Andy Jessup of Kennesaw, a camp counselor, said Mr. Powell had a gift for commanding attention and holding people's interest. "Whenever he spoke, everybody -- kids and parents alike -- listened," he said.

"We work in the summer and take the winter off," Mr. Powell said in the 1988 interview. He and his wife spent much of the off seasons at their beach home on Marco Island, Fla. There he fished and made fly-fishing lures; practiced singing and playing guitar and piano; made a variety of breads, and pasta and Chinese dishes; and flew his light plane.

Julian F. "Josh" Powell, 70, of Acworth died Monday at Peachtree Christian Hospice of multiple myeloma complications. A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at North Avenue Presbyterian Church, Atlanta. SouthCare Crematory, Marietta, is in charge of arrangements.

Born and reared in Stanford, Ky., Mr. Powell came to Georgia Tech on a basketball scholarship. A husky 6-feet, 7-inch front court player, he was tasked to grab rebounds and set picks to provide scoring opportunities for Tech's all-American guard, Roger Kaiser, now residing in Marietta.

"Josh would joke that I got the points, and he got the bruises," Mr. Kaiser said.

While not a big scorer, Mr. Powell was a vital team player and in his senior year was named captain of the 1962 squad.

A year ago at a 50-year anniversary celebration honoring the 1960 Tech team, the school's first squad to qualify for the NCAA tourney, Mr. Powell sang the national anthem. "Josh got an ovation from the crowd that lasted longer than the anthem itself," Mr. Kaiser said.

Mr. Powell often sang the national anthem and occasionally "O Canada" before games of the Atlanta Hawks, Braves and Flames. He sang at weddings, including his own 10 years ago. And he performed in local theater productions and concert halls, playing Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" and Ramphis in a Chattanooga Symphony production of "Aida."

Georgia State University football coach Bill Curry said Mr. Powell shone most brightly in his memory when he sang during the 1988 farewell service for legendary Tech football coach Bobby Dodd.

Before the accompaniment began, Mr. Powell told mourners that Coach Dodd had personally asked him to sing his favorite hymn, "How Great Thou Art," at his funeral, and Mr. Powell said he wasn't sure he could do it, but he would try.

"In fact," Mr. Curry said, "Josh sang it perfectly in that big bass-baritone voice of his, and I looked down the line of us macho, hard-nosed former Tech football players assembled there, and there wasn't a dry eye among us."

Summing Mr. Powell up, Mr. Askew said, "There was a disturbance in the universe when Josh died. He possessed a magnetic personality, great integrity, a tireless work ethic and incredibly wide-ranging interests."

Also surviving are a daughter, Julie Caldwell of Athens; a stepdaughter, Jennifer Compton of Lexington, Ky.; six stepsons, Bob Allen of Chandler, Ariz., Michael Allen of Lexington, Va., David Allen and J.J. Allen of Lexington, Ky., Mark Allen of Cordova, Tenn., and Steven Allen of Denver; two sisters, Peggy Murphy of Nicholasville, Tenn., and Mary Roberts of Louisville, Tenn.; a grandson; and 12 stepgrandchildren.