From his birth in Birkenhead, England on June 5, 1902, to his untimely death in 1957, Reverend A. Powell Davies led an active life as a minister, speaker, author, and activist. Growing up in a large family in a small suburb of Liverpool, England, Davies experienced energetic conversations and debates. His early love for engaging listeners spurred his later involvement with political and social movements. Davies’s spiritual vocation actually began in his native country of England as a Methodist minister. After completing his theological studies at the University of London, Davies and his wife, Muriel, moved to the United States in 1928. His religious career changed paths after converting and being ordained a Unitarian minister in 1933. After serving the Community Church of Summit, New Jersey for 11 years, Davies completed his earthly ministry at the All Souls Church in Washington, D.C., serving the church for 13 years.
Rev. A. Powell Davies’s expansive and unconventional activism promoted his reputation as a renowned social and political advocate. From his pulpit Davies emphasized America’s leadership role in promoting its founding principles and he applied religion to public and social issues. In his magazine articles and books he addressed and critiqued national and international affairs. Reverend Davies not only defended the rights of the majority but all classes of oppressed people. He preached frequently on his intense opposition to prejudice. Davies’s nonjudgmental attitude even extended to his defense of atheists and the promotion that all campuses across the nation should include at least one on the faculty. This unusual approach to civil equality attracted many new members prompting the greatest influx of participating congregations of the Unitarian faith in Washington, D.C. In 1950 All Souls accepted African Americans as full members for the first time. Such was Davies’s influence that his untimely death at age 55 prompted three sitting Supreme Court justices to attend his funeral service. His papers are housed at the Andover-Harvard Theological Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Meadville/Lombard School Library in Chicago, Illinois, and at the Davies Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church in Camp Springs, Maryland.
In his sermon from the All Souls pulpit on the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, Rev. Davies puts race into a universal context. He maintains that intolerance and bigotry are local, regional, state, and national problems. Davies’s honest analysis of racism as an international and almost ageless problem gives him validation for chipping away at the very foundation of prejudice. He asserts that equality is a necessity, mandated in the United States by the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by the founders’ fealty to natural law. And yet, the nation’s moral codes do not reflect the founding leaders’ fundamental principles.