In October 2018, the Arlington Historical Society, in conjunction with the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, co-hosted an event titled, “The Integration of Sports in Arlington”. The evening was designed to bring past Arlington athletes, black and white, together to discuss their experiences of finally getting to play sports together. There was one player, in particular, who made an impression on me that night, his name is Clayton “Cookie” Powell. When I learned Clayton played at the old Hoffman-Boston High School, before transferring to Wakefield for his senior year, I sought to interview him for the AHS website; it’s great to have contribution about our county’s lesser known high school from the past, H-B.
My first question for Clayton was how did he receive the nickname “Cookie”? He laughed and replied it was given to him by an older sister because she thought he looked like a chocolate cookie due to having so much hair as a baby. Clayton was born in 1946 at old Freedmen’s Hospital in D.C. (now Howard University Hospital), the seventh of eight children and his father died when he was only seven years old. He said his mother finished raising the younger children and she was quite the disciplinarian.
Clayton attended the once all-black Drew Elementary and shared with me some of the all-black little league teams in the area at that time; Jackson All-Stars in Green Valley, Johnson Hill Athletics, and the Hall’s Hill Black Sox. After elementary school, he attended Hoffman-Boston, then a middle and high school for blacks in Arlington. At H-B, he played four sports in one year but his mother made sure he kept up with his studies. His football coach was Neal Haygood – Clayton said he was very smart and taught chemistry, math, and science in addition to coaching football. H-B played against other all-black high schools which included Luther Jackson in Fairfax, Jennie Dean in Manassas, W.C. Taylor in Warrenton, and Walker-Grant in Fredericksburg.
In 1964, Hoffman-Boston High School closed so Clayton transferred to Wakefield High School for his senior year. At Wakefield he excelled as a football and basketball player and holds some of the school’s greatest championship memories. His senior year the Wakefield Warriors won Virginia’s Northern Region Championship in football and basketball and Clayton played a big starting role on both teams. He shared the story of travelling to Richmond for the state basketball tournament but the team was not allowed to practice in the city because they had an integrated squad – they had to use nearby Virginia Union’s facilities.
He also recalled when Wakefield played D.C.’s Cardoza High School in the preliminary game before the famous Power Memorial vs. DeMatha headliner at Cole Field House in January 1965. He was excited to tell about his opportunity to stand next to Power Memorial’s superstar, 7’ 2” Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), in the locker room between games.
When asked to list some of the best local athletes he played against, Clayton remembered the following: Jimmy Lewis, Parker Gray, John Hummer and Skeeter Swift.
After Wakefield, Clayton spent time in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, attended college, coached the junior varsity football and basketball teams at Wakefield, and retired as a captain in the Arlington Fire Department. He was very kind to allow AHS to scan his scrapbook which is filled with memorabilia and photos from both H-B Woodlawn and Wakefield and it’s shared here for all to enjoy.