Too much government intervention in the private sector. Too much waste in government. These were the two areas of concern which O.G. (Bill) Powell*, 1961 president of the National Association of Real Estate Boards, spoke out on during his term in office. Powell, a firm believer in free enterprise, saw these as critical areas as they related to the real estate industry and addressed them in his inaugural speech in Philadelphia on January 23, 1961.
Mr. Powell said, ". . .the vast structure of government-owned, government-managed housing, inspired by Karl Marx but financed by free men, should be liquidated into private ownership."
He also urged the federal government to avoid "rigid central control of housing or schooling, or—yes—even the morals and the practice of the real estate business."
Speaking to the Real Estate Board of New Orleans, President Powell prodded the Kennedy Administration to "restore fiscal responsibility to the operations of federal government" before it fashioned any proposals to improve the tax structure in light of the then expanding welfare state.
Mr. Powell attacked government interference in the activities of the free market. Alluding to federally-subsidized public housing and use the taxpayers' money to make direct federal loans for housing, he said: "These programs and policies contain strong elements of the welfare state and apparent acceptance of the responsibility of the federal government for the welfare of large groups of citizens.
"Vigorous re-dedication to free enterprise is the first duty of the patriot in an era in which free enterprise is menaced by statism as never before."
In an editorial in the Association's Headlines newsletter, Powell wrote: "It would seem that the quickest, simplest and best way to encourage progress would be to create a condition of a little less taxes, a little less debt, and a little less government overload on the business processes."
Two crises, one domestic and one international, arose during Mr. Powell's term in office. The $9 billion "Housing Bill of 1961," despite stiff REALTOR® opposition, became law. In another Headlines editorial, President Powell stated: "The bill launches a new form of government-owned shelter for America's middle-class whose self-reliance has always proved the measure of a nation's greatness."
A short time later, the "Berlin Crisis" made headlines all over the world. The National Association of Real Estate Boards sent out a call to action to its 70,000 members. The members were asked to start an avalanche of public opinion mail "that can help our President (Kennedy) act in confidence to 'Break Down the Wall,' dispel the fear (of war) that now grips the nations, and prove that the Soviet challenge can be met—and stopped."
Before becoming president of NAREB, Mr. Powell held a number of other key Association posts. He is a past president of the Des Moines Real Estate Board and the Iowa Real Estate Association. On the national level has been a member of the Board of Directors, chairman of the Legislative Committee and Association vice president. In addition to his work with NAREB, Mr. Powell held many positions with the National Association of Home Builders.
A native of Lorimor, Iowa, Mr. Powell lived in Des Moines where he owned and operated the Oscar L. Powell Realty Company. The firm was active in general real estate, appraising, insurance, subdivision development, and custom residential construction.
Source: Presidents of the National Association of REALTORS®, (Chicago: NAR, 1980).