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Composer John Powell entered the University at 16 and graduated Phi Beta Kappa two years later. After study abroad he returned to his native Virginia and began traveling throughout the South collecting folk tunes, many of which he then used as a basis for his classical compositions. In 1938, on the 25th anniversary of his musical debut, he gave a concert at Carnegie Hall and donated the proceeds to Alderman Library which used them to purchase Thomas Jefferson letters pertaining to the University's founding.
Powell's musical fame has been shadowed over the years by his views on racial integrity. With his friend Dr. Paul B. Barringer of the University medical faculty, he founded the University branch of the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America, an organization dedicated "to preserve the purity of the white race and to maintain the qualities and purposes of the Anglo Saxon race." Their pressure on the state legislature resulted in the 1924 law forbidding any intermarriage between whites and "those with a single drop of Negro blood," a statute that was not overturned until "Loving vs. Virginia" in 1967.