Glenn Powell’s first book, “My Last Baggage Call Aboard Air Force One,” is a memoir, a book of inspiration. It’s a book that shares struggles, and how one can overcome those struggles. It details one young man’s belief in himself, and his belief in the goodness of humankind.
Sergeant First Class Glenn W. Powell’s amazing journey has been one of sacrifices, service, and life-changing miracles. This beloved son of Toledo, Ohio envisioned his future, then set about to make it a reality. Never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined his life would end up as it did; serving not one, but three Presidents of the United States, meeting global leaders as he traveled around the world.
“My Last Baggage Call Aboard Air Force One,” is Powell’s story about the childhood he left behind in Toledo, Ohio, and the new world he found as a young soldier in the U.S. Army, and finally his years in service to his country at the most important address in the world, the White House. His story is about his journey, and the unforgettable men and women he met along the way; how their lives impacted his journey. About the friendships that were forged and cemented for life.
It was the middle of the civil rights era; the mid-60’s when Margaret Powell gave birth to her last child, a beautiful son with a smile that melted his mother’s heart. Glenn W. Powell grew up on Toledo’s Northside. He poignantly recalls the Dorr Street of his childhood. The place where, in spite of the racial and social turmoil of that time, he was buffeted by the cocoon that was his village – his parents, grandparents, cousins, two sisters, and one brother, and so many others who simply cared. Everyone, it seemed, doted on the small boy with the big smile.
Glenn remembers a happy childhood. His siblings still amazed that he was blessed with the unlikely privilege of a nanny and housekeeper who cooked his favorite meals and doted on him, as most grownups did.
Glenn’s childhood, however, was a nonconventional one; not a typical Beaver Cleaver existence. He unabashedly recalls the untraditional father-son role with his father, a doting father who lived across town, yet remained a constant in his four children’s lives. He shares with deepest emotion, the mother who worked so hard to care for him and his four siblings. A working mother, Margaret Powell spent most of her waking hours at Toledo’s Kroger Store. Her hard work and dedication paid off when she broke the store’s racial barriers, becoming its first African American manager.
These images were also lessons for life that would remain with Glenn. Lessons like the power of dreams, of keeping one’s word, and the rewards of hard work and focus. The teenage Glenn Powell, though, was restless, always seeking more than what was in front of him. He surprised family and friends when he skipped his high school graduation and dunned a military uniform – in search of “something.” He was convinced that becoming a soldier could lead to that something. And, he was right. The teenage boy took his life in his hands, transporting himself from the pampered “baby” of the family to a much-admired leader.
Glenn Powell’s Journey in Photos
A Journey in Photos (L to R): 1. President Clinton’s Last Radio Address, with Glenn, Ronda, Darius and Warren Powell, 2001; 2. Glenn Powell’s grandparents Tom and Fannie Powell; 3. School photo: Glenn Powell, age 5 (1967); 4. Glenn’s 3rd birthday party with siblings Eileen, Mike and Lauren(1965); 5. Margaret Powell’s retirement celebration with children: Glenn, Eileen, Lauren and Mike(1999) ; 6. Glenn, Ronda and Darius celebrate Warren’s 18th birthday; 7. Glenn and Ronda at AF One Christmas Party (1993); 8. Powell Family Christmas vacation(2012); 9. Presidential Asia Trip with: John Henderson, Houck O’Neal, Rudy Cunningham; 10. Glenn on Presidential Africa trip, at Senegal’s “Door of No Return.” 1999; 11. Glenn Powell with Transportation Team; 12. Glenn and Ronda with Sec. Clinton, Ambassador McLarty and military officials at Retirement Ceremony,2002; 13. Glenn and News Anchor Connie Chung, Haiti; 14. Glenn and President’s Personal Aide Kris Engskov aboard C-17, departing Bosnian 1999; 15. Glenn with President Clinton and senior Clinton aides on AF1: Pres. Clinton, Sec. R. Slater, B. Nash, Terry McAuliffe, T. Powell, and Col. Jake Simmons, IV.
My Last Baggage Call Aboard Air Force One
Our Village on Fernwood Street
I was born June 8, 1962. My mother was 26, and I was the last of her and my father’s four children. Mother left her parent’s home the year I was born. She moved into her own home, just four blocks from my grandparents. Though she, my brother and two sisters, and I no longer lived with my grandparents, all of our holidays were celebrated at their house. Their home remained the central place for the Powell family as long as my grandparents lived. My mother’s siblings lived in Toledo, just blocks from my grandparents.
The Powell family was close-knit. I remember that my older brother Michael asked if he could stay with my grandparents, and my mom and grandmother agreed that he could. My grandmother raised Michael as if he was her own child, and Michael would refer to her as “mama.” He called our mother, “Margaret.”
One of my earliest childhood memories is Christmas holidays. My aunts, uncles and cousins came to my grandparent’s home to enjoy the festivities. As the youngest of four siblings, my parents saw to it that I always got exactly what I asked for during Christmas. My siblings would often complain that I was my mother’s favorite and she would go out of her way to make sure I was happy. I was my mother’s youngest child, so a lot of that was to be expected. Even now, 50-plus years later, I still am considered the “baby” of the family.
One of the things I will never live down is the fact that when my mother started her career with Kroger Stores, she hired a nanny to take care of me. She later said it was because she knew the job would demand a lot of her time, and she had to work to take care of us. Of course, my siblings saw this as another case of me receiving special treatment. How would I have known that I was probably the only black child in Toledo at the time whose mother had hired a nanny to take care of him? Her name was Ms. Sarah, and what I remember most is her cooking. She was an amazing cook. She remained a part of my life until I went to public school when I was six.
Through her actions, our mother communicated much of what she would not say. She must have realized there would be obstacles to what she wanted to attain in her career. She knew she would have to work twice as hard to achieve her goals. At the same time, she didn’t want to have to worry about my wellbeing as she went out and worked each day. In time, her hard work paid off, and she became the first black cashier and the first black manager Kroger
Stores ever hired. She remained with Kroger for over 40 years, before retiring.
Mother was a young teenager working in Derby soda shop when she met my father. I imagine theirs was a friendship that, in time, blossomed into love. My father was considerably older than my mother when they had their first child. My grandparents were livid, and tried everything in their power to keep their young daughter away from my father, even going to his business and threatening to kill him.
George Bowman was a well-respected businessman in the city of Toledo. He worked for Sears & Roebuck Company for most of his life, retiring in 1957. After retirement, he opened the Eureka Social Club, a popular members-only club in Toledo.
Though my father didn’t live with us, I saw him nearly every day. He was a loving and attentive parent. My parent’s four children were born three years apart. Our births were unplanned, so the three-year age differences remain a mystery.
My mother was much like Grandmother Fannie Mae in that she was the center of her home. She was certainly a positive force in my life, the most important force, in fact. I can truthfully say that she taught me every good thing I learned in life…things that I was able to take with me throughout my life. Beyond being a wonderful mother, however, Margaret Powell had a lot of ambition and devoted a great deal of her time to her job at Kroger. She believed in excellence and wouldn’t stop until she excelled at everything she ever set her mind to accomplish. She expected the same of her children.
In her 40 years as a Kroger employee, she worked at just about every store in the city. Her first job with Kroger was at the Cherry Street store. After that, she worked at the stores on Hauley Street, Monroe and Detroit Street, Monroe and Central Street, and finally on Monroe and Secor Road. In the early 60’s, she became the first African American to work as a store Manager. She always gave credit to her supervisor Robert Meegan who recognized her potential and mentored her at a time when blacks were rarely if ever hired in management roles.
Margaret Powell spent every waking moment focused on excelling at work, and doing all she could to make life for her children better. In return, she expected a lot from us. While she expected a lot from each of us, I believe her highest expectation were for me. My siblings sometimes called me, the Powell family’s “Golden Child,”, and I guess I always felt that I needed to try to live up to what others expected of me. Although I fought against the term
when I was growing up, I now admit that I was a “mama’s boy.” I never wanted for anything that my mother wouldn’t find a way to get for me. However, one thing she never gave me was permission to play sports. She was afraid I would get hurt.
While my mother had been raised as a strict Christian, and attended Calvary Baptist Church each Sunday with her family, no one would call her an overly religious woman. Attending church was not something she made us do on a regular basis. She taught the Christian rules in our home, but it was up to us whether we would continue to attend church after we moved from grandma’s home. My grandfather was a longtime member of the Masons and my grandmother was an Eastern Star.
I would describe my mother as a pragmatist. She understood that her work was important to holding our family together. I may have been a mama’s boy, but Margaret Powell taught my siblings and me how to be independent and self-sufficient. We all learned to clean house, cook, do laundry, and sew. She knew that there was no way she could be a homemaker like my grandmother. My grandmother had my grandfather to serve as sole breadwinner. My parents never married. And, while my father was always in in our lives, the fact that she was a single mother was a constant reminder to my mother that our well-being was, for all practical purposes, her responsibility.
A Soldier’s Story
Shortly after I turned 18, I enlisted in the army. Around that time, I learned that the young woman I’d been dating was pregnant, so going into the army would be an opportunity to provide for my child. The army sent me to Fort Dix in New Jersey for boot camp training on April 22, 1982. It was the perfect enlistment site for me.
Because of the popular television show, Dallas, I had in mind that I wanted to go to Fort Hood, Texas and meet JR Ewing. Not only did I meet Larry Hagman, the actor who played JR, but I also met the entire cast at one of the big Dallas malls. That was in the 80s when the networks spent money to have cast members show up to greet their fans, and when fans could easily get a photo with the stars. Meeting JR had been on my mental bucket list. Later I learned that “Klinger” from Mash and Danny Thomas were both from Toledo, and so I added them to the list.
In 1983, I re-enlisted and chose Hawaii as my next army stint. There for 18 months, I’m convinced that the Hawaii move helped me look long and hard at myself and my future. In Hawaii, I decided I needed to better myself. I enrolled at the Wahiawa Community School for Adults and got my high school diploma. My mother was so disappointed when I didn’t graduate from high school, so I did it as much for her as for myself.
My long transportation management career began in Wahiawa. I was one of a large number of applicants who applied for a temporary mission of driving for the Sergeant Major for the division. He was the senior enlisted man at the post. I beat out the other candidates for that position. Later, I drove for the one-star general at the post. After that, I returned to my unit and worked as the battalion mail clerk until he left in 1985. While there, I met friends and mentors who would help me decide on my career journey. That same year, I was asked to re-enlist, and First Sergeant Herbert Harris became a lifelong mentor and friend. Sergeant Harris recommended that I choose Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia for my re-enlistment. I remained at Fort Eustis from April 1985 until January 1988.
I became a squad leader, and for the next six months, I managed a squad of truck drivers in and around the base. After that, I was set on transportation becoming my specialty, but my career trajectory changed some when I was appointed to head up NCO Training, where I was responsible for the training of 270 soldiers.
Around this time, I met First Sergeant Fletcher Walker. He was sent in to straighten out our company, and he did just that. He would stand up at the top of the stairs with his hat covering his eyes, but looking down at us. Sergeant Walker was a ‘soldier among soldiers,’ an airborne paratrooper, a Vietnam Veteran who had been shot three times. There was no one more surprised when he chose me to run the training. I knew he had high expectations, and I was determined not to disappoint him. He was the kind of leaders for whom soldiers would fight and die. He was a true hero who taught me how to be a soldier and a man. He shared a lot about life with me. I imitated him in many ways so much that everyone would call me “Baby Walker.” I met his family and it was an honor. He retired as a Command Sergeant Major.
A Decade of Service
My colleagues and I were emotional to say the least as the Clinton Administration came closer to its final days. The Clinton Administration established a culture unlike any previous President. Within that culture, everyone mattered and we felt that we mattered. We had grown accustomed to serving our country and feeling valued for that service. Staff members had become like family in many instances. It was not just direct co-workers that became like family but it was staff at every level from lower to senior aides. We had dined together in restaurants and eating joints around the nation and global. Moreover, we had placed our feet in each other’s homes and dined at each other’s tables. We had formed genuine bonds, and it was hard to let all of that go.
As George Bush II arrived to the White House with his staff, I had mixed emotions about what was ahead. If the new President was anything like his father, he was going to be a super nice man. I wasn’t so sure about the players who would surround him and work in the Administration. As expected, when the Clinton Administration was finally out and the Bush Administration was in, the culture of the White House shifted drastically. They had new ideas about the roles civilians, military, and political staff would play. Military staff was always ready for change. Change was our occupational norm.
While I would no longer serve on Air Force One, I was proud to continue to play a role in the Bush Administration. Maybe more than ever before in modern times, the steadiness of military staff would become evident, as the tragedy of September 11, 2001 was near. It stands out foremost in my mind concerning the time I served in the Bush II White House.
( Continued… )
© 2017 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Glenn W. Powell. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author’s written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.
Black Pearls Magazine Interview
Sergeant First Class (SFC) Glenn W. Powell (Retired), is a native of Toledo, Ohio. He enlisted into the United States Army in 1982, and retired in 2002. During his military career, he served as a heavy vehicle driver, a squad leader, and non-commissioned officer.
In September, 1991, SFC Powell joined the George HW Bush White House as a chauffeur, and in 1992, was promoted to transportation coordinator for the white house Press Corps, serving in the Clinton Administration. In December 1995, he assumed the duties of transportation supervisor for Air Force One. In January, 2001, during his service under President George W. Bush, SFC Powell was transferred to the White House Military Office, Customer Support and Organizational Development where he served as deputy director.
SFC Powell retired with distinction from the Military in 2002. He received numerous awards and decorations throughout his service, including the Legion of Merit Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the United States Army Achievement Medal with four oak leaf clusters. He received U.S. Service Ribbons for both domestic and overseas service. Glenn and Ronda Holloway Powell have been married for 25+ years, and have three sons, Darius, Warren, and Glenn, II. They reside in Virginia.
BPM: How does a man go from basic training in Fort Dix, New Jersey to a prestigious career at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a Deputy Director in the White House Military Office?
ANSWER: The journey wasn’t easy but it all boiled down to hard work, dedication, and individuals seeing your potential for success.
BPM: Entering the military at an early age can be challenging for some young people. What was your experience like and looking back would you do this all over again?
ANSWER: At first that experience was very hard. It was my first time being away from home and being in an environment that I couldn’t control. It forced me to grow up quickly and provided the additional resources and discipline that I needed to become a man. Without question, I would do it all over again.
BPM: Tell us about your new book, MY LAST BAGGAGE CALL ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE: A Journey of Sacrifice, Service, Family, and Friendship.
ANSWER: The book is about my personal journey from being a teenage father in Toledo, OH. Making the hard decision to leave my son in order to provide for him. Serving my country that I hold in high regards. Finding love and building a family. Constantly leaving my family to fulfill my military obligations while serving the Office of the President, and establishing lifelong friendships.
BPM: What was it like to be in service to three American presidents?
ANSWER: It was one of the greatest honors that an individual in the military can aspire to have. It isn’t the norm for a military person to be able to serve three Presidents, due to the fact that we relocate after four years on that assignment.
BPM: Being aboard Air Force One had to be amazing! What is one of the most beautiful places you visited?
ANSWER: The first place was South Africa, where I was afforded the opportunity to go on safari, but more importantly to tour Robin Island during President Clinton’s visit, and have the pleasure of meeting Nelson Mandela. The other place was China, and being able to walk the Great Wall of China, and standing in Tiananmen Square.
BPM: What was your most interesting chapter to write in your book MY LAST BAGGAGE CALL?
ANSWER: For me, the most interesting chapter to write was Chapter 15, Second Chances. Writing this chapter allowed me to be vulnerable with how I felt during 911 and multiple health issues that I had faced.
BPM: Were there ever times you wished you could share your story with the world before writing the book?
ANSWER: Yes, there were, but because I’m such a private person and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share my story.
BPM: What made you want to become a writer? How long have you been writing?
ANSWER: I have been writing my story my whole life. Keeping notes in my head internally. I just never knew that I was a writer. It wasn’t until my cancer diagnosis, that I decided it was time to put the thoughts and feelings to paper.
BPM: How has writing MY LAST BAGGAGE CALL impacted your life?
ANSWER: It has allowed me to be more open with regards to my personal life. It has allowed me to share the upbringing that has made me what I am today.
BPM: What advice or bit of wisdom would you share with the young man leaving home for the first time seeking adventure?
ANSWER: I would say, try not to be afraid but open for opportunities that came your way. Your destiny has been pre-determined, so follow your heart.
BPM: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
ANSWER: I would view writing as an outlet, as everyone has many views on spiritual practice and I don’t want to offend anyone with my views.
BPM: What was one of the most surprising things you learned from this project?
ANSWER: The one thing that was most surprising, was finding out my family history. Everyone isn’t always able to trace their family origins.
BPM: Share one specific point in your past that is resonating with your present situation or journey.
ANSWER: To always treat others the way that you want to be treated.
BPM: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
ANSWER: It is both energizing and exhausting. It energizes me by allowing my creative juices to flow. It is exhausting because you really don’t know just how much work goes into bringing a project to life.
BPM: What are the top three things that make you feel happy and fulfilled at this point in life?
ANSWER: God allowing me to still be on this life journey. The love and support of my family and friends. Peace of mind and spirit.
BPM: What makes you forget about the world around you?
ANSWER: I’m really never able to forget the world around me, although going on vacation allows me to recharge my batteries.
BPM: What strengths did you use to achieve two major goals in life?
ANSWER: The wisdom of selfless service from my parents, and the courage to work hard to achieve my goals from my military mentors.
BPM: What other projects are you working on at the present?
ANSWER: The next project that I’m working on is gathering more historical information about my family roots in Rison, AR.
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work? Is the book available on Nook and Kindle?
ANSWER: My book is available on Amazon for both Nook and Kindle. My website is under development.
BPM: Are you on social media? We would like to stay in contact with you!
ANSWER: Yes, I’m on Facebook and messenger @Glenn W. Powell (Author), Twitter @glennwpowell1, and Instagram @glennwpowell