Keeping the faith for Adam, baby, was last week's toughest task. In Detroit, an effort to organize a general strike of Negro workers and school children in support of Adam Clayton Powell proved a total flop. In New York, a meeting of national Negro leaders to promote backing for him was postponed indefinitely. In Washington, the special House committee investigating the Harlem Democrat's fitness to serve in the 90th Congress could only elicit evidence that he should not.
The most damaging testimony of all came from his third wife, who, after a one-hour recitation that supported some of the charges against her estranged husband, demonstrated her own lack of rancor by pleading with the committee to help him "continue his career in the service of his country." Testifying about the man who abandoned her for a young beauty-contest winner, Puerto Rican Yvette Diago Powell, 35, a onetime secretary, told the committee that:
∙ She had remained on her husband's congressional payroll, though she moved to Puerto Rico in 1961, despite a federal law that all such congressional employees must work either in Washington or in a Congressman's home district. ∙
·She had performed no work at all after the summer of 1965but remained on the payroll until she was fired by the House last January.
·Her salary climbed to $20,578 a year, but she received only two paychecks in the past two years. She had authorized no one to cash her checkswhich ended up in Powell's accountand someone else signed "Y. Marjorie Flores" (the name she used for payroll purposes) without her knowledge on the 19 checks shown her at the hearing. The handwriting, she allowed, "does look familiar."
Mrs. Powell also opened the way to further investigation of her husband by testifying that he handled all their financial affairs and that for the past two years, at least, she had not signed their joint income tax returns. Powell's New York State return for 1965 was already part of the committee record. It was a joint form listing $60,381 in combined incomeon which Powell had paid only $1,501 in state taxes, claiming that nearly two-thirds of their gross earnings was not subject to the state levy.
If Powell had shown a cavalier disregard for the law, Yvette's testimony suggested that he had acted even more callously toward his wife. After their son was born in Puerto Rico in 1962, she said, he ignored her repeated pleas to allow her to return to his office and his life. In fact, said Yvette, she has had no communication from her husband since their last meeting in September 1965. When she tried to see him in Washington last August, he was unavailable. They have no separation agreement, and Powell has sent her about $6,850 in support payments over the past two years. He has also paid some bills and household expenses directly. She added: "The larger ones, I understand, are still unpaid."