He received his B.S. and LL.B degrees, in 1929 and 1931 respectively, from Washington and Lee University. In 1932, he received an LL.M degree from Harvard Law School. That same year, he entered the practice of law with the Richmond firm of Christian, Barton and Parker. In 1935, he joined Hunton, Williams, Anderson, Gay and Moore. He became a partner in 1938, and remained with the firm until his appointment to the Supreme Court. He combined trial work and corporate law with a general civil practice.
In 1936, he married Josephine Pierce Rucker. She died in 1996. They had three daughters and a son.Justice Powell is survived by his children, Josephine and Richard Smith of Houston, Pendleton and Robert Bowen of Whidbey Island, Washington, Molly and Christopher Sumner of Salt Lake City, Lewis and Lisa Powell of Richmond; by grandchildren, Elliott and Denise Smith, Quincy Smith, Lycia Carmody and Rocky Fried, Nathaniel and Vickie Carmody, Ryland Sumner, Kendall Sumner, and Emily, Hannah and Lewis Powell; by his great-grandson, Zachary Smith; and by his sister Eleanor Powell Dewey of Williamsburg.
During his World War II service (1942-1946), Powell rose from First Lieutenant to full Colonel in the Army Air Corps. He spent thirty-three months overseas in the North African and European Theaters as a Combat and Staff Intelligence Officer. In 1944, he became a Special Branch Ultra Officer involved in the breaking of the highest level German codes.
After the war, Powell resumed his law practice, becoming a senior, named partner in 1958. He became both the firm's most effective "rainmaker" and its chief practitioner of pro bono work.
President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Powell to the National Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice (1965-1967). He was a member of the National Advisory Committee on Legal Services to the Poor. President Richard M. Nixon appointed Powell to the Blue Ribbon Defense Panel (1969-1970) which studied the Department of Defense.
On October 21, 1971, President Nixon nominated Powell as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed the appointment on December 7, 1971, and he took office on January 7, 1972. He retired from active service as a Justice on June 26, 1987.more » « less