William Larkin Power
August 2, 1934 – September 6, 2020
William Larkin Power, Professor Emeritus of Religion at the University of Georgia, beloved husband, father, and grandfather, and mentor to hundreds of students of all ages, died in Athens on Sunday, September 6, 2020, of complications from a fall and heart failure. Will was born in Biloxi, MS on August 2, 1934, to Ellis Candler Power and Lauraine Barbour Power. He had a wonderful childhood growing up in Biloxi, attending public schools and embracing the abundant opportunities for sailing, fishing, and savoring the beautiful Gulf Coast.
Upon graduation from Biloxi High School in 1952, Will headed to Oxford to become an Ole Miss Rebel. He fell in love with Ole Miss, a love that lasted his entire life. In his 80s, he still wore his white Ole Miss cap every day (with the bill pointed forward, of course), and would greet other Ole Miss aficionados with a hearty “Hotty Toddy!” He joined Kappa Sigma fraternity and immersed himself in campus life. He received his B.A.E. degree from the University of Mississippi in 1956, and enrolled in Emory University to pursue a Master of Divinity degree. His decision to join the R.O.T.C. program at Ole Miss interfered, and he had to interrupt his Emory studies to fulfill his military obligation. He served at Fort Benning, GA as an infantry officer. He took this opportunity to marry his sweetheart, Joan Holloway, and the newlyweds returned to Emory at the completion of his military service.
Will completed his M.Div. degree in 1959 and accepted a position as a student chaplain at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Realizing during that period that he really wanted to teach rather than enter the ministry, Will enrolled at Emory again in 1962, and he and Joan returned to Atlanta. After three years of study and hard work, Will was awarded his Ph.D. degree from Emory in 1965.
His first teaching job was at Lambeth College in Jackson, TN, where he was Assistant Professor of Philosophy. He eventually was appointed Acting Head of the Department of Philosophy at Lambeth, where he also won several “outstanding teacher” awards. Will and Joan were very happy at Lambeth, making many friends and being active in the Jackson community. Another source of joy was the arrival of sons William Keith Power (Keith) in 1966 and Richard Kevin Power (Kevin) the following year. Will was still Acting Head of the Philosophy Department when he was invited to interview for a position at the University of Georgia. As one of his mentors at Ole Miss, Professor Bowman Clarke, was on the faculty of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at that time, Will was eager to teach at Georgia. He accepted the position when it was offered, and the young family moved to Athens in 1967. Will would remain at the University for 47 years, finally retiring at the beginning of 2015.
Will was a dedicated teacher, and he embraced the opportunity to work with and learn from the excellent faculty in Philosophy and Religion at Georgia. He studied constantly in his areas of historical theology, philosophical and systematic theology, and philosophy of religion. He was determined that his students would have the very best information he could provide in an informal setting, which allowed them to ponder and question without fear of being embarrassed. He wanted always to enhance their learning and knowledge about his subjects and their confidence in dealing with them. His teaching was a “calling,” and he treated it as a sacred trust. His outstanding commitment to his teaching was recognized by his being named “Outstanding Honors Professor” three times and being awarded the prestigious Sandy Beaver Teaching Associate designation – these awards being specifically designed to honor exceptional performance in the classroom. As recently as August, Will was still being called by former students – some now in their 40s and 50s and some having become deans at colleges nationwide – to discuss theological ideas or just to talk about their lives, hopes, and dreams. He loved his students, and they returned that love with respect.
Teaching was most important to Will, but not his only professional interest. When the department split into two departments, he was a founding member of the Department of Religion and worked diligently to guarantee its success. He was also a scholar, having published over 30 articles, in addition to editing professional journals and contributing chapters to colleagues’ books. He was respected by his professional colleagues, as evidenced by his election as President of the American Academy of Religion, S.E. and President of the Society for Philosophy of Religion, which honored him by establishing a scholarship in his name in the Department of Religion at Georgia. He lectured or presented papers to over 40 professional groups, and made himself available to speak to civic clubs and to teach Sunday School classes in Athens churches.
Will loved Athens and gave freely of his time in supporting local organizations and charities. He served on the Board of Trustees of Hope Haven School, the Athens YMCA, the Felton Williams Mission (Atlanta), and Athens Academy for many years, and twice served as President of the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art. He also served on numerous committees and councils at the University.
Despite all of this activity, Will still found time to be a good husband and father. His wife Joan suffered from lupus, and unfortunately died in 1968 after an extended illness, leaving Will in a new job in a new town with two very young sons. He stepped up to the task and gave his boys the love and support they needed at that very difficult time. In 1970, he married Amburn Huskins Watson, whom he had met through mutual acquaintances. She also had two sons, and so Will added two stepsons – Judson Durward Watson III (Jay) and Joseph Dunlap Watson (Joe) – to his family. The children were three, four, five and eight years old when the new family was formed, so they could share all of their experiences of growing up – the good, the bad, and no small degree of mischief. They all enjoyed growing up in Athens, and Will made sure they knew how to fish as well as do a little yardwork. He was a loving dad to all four boys, and a wonderful, loving husband to Amburn. His greatest gifts to them all were his eternal optimism, innate kindness, and terrific sense of humor. They all learned about his favorites – jazz music and bass fishing – and many happy afternoons were spent at the Marion lake or at home listening to Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. Later in life, he cherished his three granddaughters and two grandsons, and recently learned how to FaceTime with them. This was an achievement that would have particularly pleased his longtime assistant, Zinetta McDonald, who regularly rescued him from his mishaps with modern technology over the years. Will’s was a life well lived and enjoyed. He was a warm, affectionate person, and he will be sorely missed by so many.
Will was predeceased by his parents, numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, and his youngest son, Kevin. He is survived by his loving wife of 49 years, Amburn Huskins Power, and his three sons and their families: Keith Power, his wife Kathryn, and their son, Sean, of Warner Robins, GA; Joe Watson, his wife Hilary, and their daughters, Josephine and Jane, of Greenwich, CT; and Jay Watson, his wife Susan, their children, Katherine and Judson, and Judson’s wife, Marissa, of Oxford, MS. He is also survived by his late son Kevin’s beloved life partner, Lori McCoy, of Marathon Key, FL.
The family will hold a private burial, with a celebration of Will’s life to be held at an appropriate time in the future. Those desiring to make a contribution in Will’s memory are asked to consider a donation to “The William L. Power Scholarship in Religion” administered by the Department of Religion at the University of Georgia, or to the charity of their choice.
The William L. Power Scholarship in Religion
Department of Religion University of Georgia , Athens, Georgia
A private family graveside service will be held in Oconee Hill Cemetery
William Larkin Power
Don and Jane Nute
September 20, 2020
What a wonderful smile! And joy in his voice. He was a person who you would seek out cause he welcomed conversation with everyone. We are grateful for having known and learned from his example. Thank you Amburn for being part of it all.
September 14, 2020
Thank you for welcoming me into your family with open arms. I will never forget my visit to UGA or the time you taught my sister and I how to fish (or at least tried to - I remember we were pretty hopeless cases). With love, your German granddaughter Kathi
September 10, 2020
I am so saddened to hear of Dr. Power's passing. We knew each other since 1982 when I was the work study student for the Religion Dept, then we worked together till 2018. I miss his always happy face and upbeat attitude, hearing about Bass fishing, and all our great conversations about Biloxi, our children and the Religion Department. He was a giant of a man to many and will be GREATLY missed.
September 10, 2020
Dr. Power gave me a precious gift: the patience and depth of knowledge to ignite my passion in philosophy of religion. Not only this, but he was a true gentleman who was quick with a smile and a story. Even after he had stopped teaching classes, I would get excited to see his truck in the parking lot and would stop in to Peabody just to bask in his light. The world is less bright in his absence, he will be deeply missed.
September 9, 2020
Dr. Power had such a warm smile, humor that welcomed everyone. I loved when he came to the office for mail, to check on this or that, to bring gifts from Ms. Power, to talk of fishing, a true gentleman. UGA was richer because of you, and now poorer in your absence. You leave a mighty legacy. May the Good Lord bless and keep you, may His face shine upon you, may He grant you peace.
September 8, 2020
Dr. Power was one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I have ever known. Rest In Peace, sir.
September 8, 2020
Dr. Power was one of my favorite professors. I wish I had the chance to sit in one more lecture, but what a privilege to have experienced them at all. I wish you well earned rest and bass fishing, sir.
September 8, 2020
Will was a fantastic teacher and a kind and caring colleague. He will be greatly missed.
September 8, 2020
Dr. Will Power was a good man and is a kind soul. Always quick with a wave and a jest about nickel beer and fishing! He was open and caring and he loved students. I will miss him. Hope he is getting a chance to argue with the great philosophers! He will be missed!