SAN ANGELO, Texas — UPDATE (Sept. 20, 2022): A bill proposing changing the name of the San Angelo VA Clinic to honor the late Col. Charles and JoAnne Powell has been passed, according to US Sen. John Cornyn and Congressman August Pfluger.
Tuesday, Cornyn (R-TX) and Pfluger (TX-11) released statements after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Colonel Charles and JoAnne Powell VA Clinic Act, to rename the San Angelo Community Based Outpatient VA Clinic in San Angelo to honor the Powell’s lifetime of service to the area:
“Colonel Charles and JoAnne Powell are remembered for their remarkable dedication to public service and to West Texas,” Cornyn said. “Their legacy of community leadership will live on to inspire others who walk through the doors of this VA clinic and I look forward to this bill being signed into law.”
“Colonel Powell and JoAnne served our country and the San Angelo community with character and dignity—living their lives completely devoted to the service of others,” Pfluger said. “Renaming the VA Clinic in San Angelo after these two legends could not be more fitting, as they both passionately supported our military members throughout their entire lives. Our Nation is a better place because of their unparalleled patriotism and love for our country. Now, every veteran who walks in for care at the clinic, and every person in the community who drives by, will be inspired by the service of Charles and JoAnne.”
Col. Charles Powell, former commander at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo died in July 2020. His wife, JoAnne, who served for four US congressmen, died in March 2021.
ORIGINAL STORY: Service. Honor. Dignity. Devotion. These words were used to describe the legacy left by two of San Angelo's most beloved citizens, the late Col. Charles and JoAnne Powell.
"San Angelo was where the Powells lived. Goodfellow is the house they built," Goodfellow Air Force Base Wing Commander Col. Andres Nazario said Thursday morning.
Thursday, Congressman August Pfluger, (R), Dist. 11, announced proposed legislation to rename the San Angelo VA Clinic to the "Col. Charles and JoAnne Powell VA Clinic," in honor of the late couple.
With the Powell's daughter and grandson in the gallery, along with city, state and military dignitaries, Pfluger said he was proud and humbled to introduce the bill "after two pillars of the San Angelo community who have left us with the great responsibility of following their example."
"Col. Powell and JoAnne served our country and this community with character and dignity. Living their lives completely devoted to the service of others through a distinguished career in the US Air Force, and later in civilian life where they became two of the most ardent advocates for veterans and military families," Pfluger said.
The Powells arrived in San Angelo in 1980 when Charles was appointed as the base commander at Goodfellow Air Force Base, a role he served until his retirement in 1984.
This was when "JoAnne," Pfluger said, "Became the First Lady of San Angelo."
The Powells were tasked with saving Goodfellow from the base closure list, rallying the civilian "troops" in support of the Air Force base. The relationship they built with San Angelo remains in existence.
"They completely transformed the mission of Goodfellow into one of the most important pillars of national security in this country," Pfluger said.
In their civilian lives, the Powells became active and well-respected members of the community and beyond, as JoAnne continued to serve her state and country with four US congressmen.
"Renaming this VA clinic in their honor could not be more fitting to that service because one of their major passions in life was taking care of those who served," Pfluger said.
He said his announcement was the first step in changing the name of the clinic in honor of these two heroes. Garnering the support of every member of Congress from the State of Texas will help carry the bill.
"But I look forward to shepherding this initiative through the legislative process so that every veteran who comes into this clinic knows that the care that they are going to receive lives in the legacy of Charles and JoAnne Powell - which means you look out for the needs of others first. Which means that you don't just stop with one phone call, that you follow up and you make sure that those veterans are truly taken care of, something that Charles and JoAnne Powell did every single day of their life."
Angelo State University President Ronnie Hawkins, US Air Force Lt. Gen, retired, spoke fondly of the Powells.
"I stand here as a veteran and being a recipient of some of the service that would come from the VA building and the hospital here, I will tell you I stand here very proud," Hawkins said.
He said he recalls two different occasions where Goodfellow was almost closed and when Col. Powell was the commander, "he had everybody lined up down the street to where it was that San Angelo showed the support for Goodfellow Air Force Base that it needed, and it was his vision to change the mission of Goodfellow Air Force Base to what it is today."
Hawkins said as a retired military person, he will stand in support of the legislation, and as the president of ASU that supports many veterans, the university supports it as well.
"We stand here in unity and solidarity for a great couple that epitomized everything that you would want, not just necessarily in an officer, but an officer and a gentleman and a spouse of a military person as well. There is no greater example than JoAnne Powell to be able to do that and all that she stood for, and I would also say ran for, I was never able to keep up with her when I was in the airport in Dallas Fort Worth Texas," Hawkins said. "Her tenacity and her endurance are two of the things that always come to mind all the time."
Nazario said "legacy and service" are the two words that come to mind when speaking of the Powells.
Pointing to military members in uniform, some who never met the couple, Nazario said "he's here because he's heard about the Powells. Because he walks in buildings that the Powells justified for Goodfellow Air Force Base. So, when we got the invite to support the legislation, we dropped everything we were going to be here."
"It was the house they built," he said. "Their legacy has outlived them."
The Powell's daughter and only child, Terri McKinney, said of the announcement and the speakers, "It is so humbling that so many people care and love my parents as much as I did; and to hear the stories I grew up knowing of their service and seeing it firsthand. But to hear all the stories and the people that make comments and the congressmen that, you know, puts forth legislation and all of the Air Force personnel, that was truly a labor of love for them. And I think back to mother's waning days, and that's why she didn't retire. She was 89-years-old and not retired. And her mantra was, I like helping people. So I think if we all take that little bit. And help someone, then we honor them."
McKinney said she and her husband will move to San Angelo from the Metroplex once he retires. To a city her parents called home and now, a city who continues to honor their legacy.