Cover photo for Clay Powell's Obituary
1936 Clay Powell 2023

Clay Powell

July 24, 1936 — December 20, 2023



POWELL, CLAY MURISON "BUTCH" July 24, 1936 - December 20, 2023 Peacefully, in Meaford, ON, after a mercifully brief decline. Clay spent more than 50 years in criminal courts as a prosecutor, defence lawyer and counsel on royal commissions and inquests. At 87, he remained resilient and sharp, completing Wordle in three last week but sadly checking out before the Colorado Supreme Court would have put a smile on his face. He was born in 1936 to Bert and Kathleen Powell, sister to Sandra (all predeceased), and grew up in a small farmhouse called Lonely Acres on Leslie Street. That's where he had his first confrontation with criminals, bumping into one of the infamous Boyd gang members hiding in a barn. After working as a reporter at the Toronto Telegram, Clay talked his way into Osgoode Hall Law School before landing an articling position with legal legend, Arthur Martin, who suggested he join the criminal appeals section of Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General. Clay soon rose to head a new special prosecutions section in 1965, an office that developed a reputation for tackling difficult and complicated cases and attracted some of the province's brightest criminal law minds. He blazed a trail in court, where he was known for an aggressive style that earned him the bitter enmity of organized crime figures and white collar crooks. He hit the headlines prosecuting Maple Leafs owner, Harold Ballard, for diverting shareholders' money, the stock fraud case of Viola MacMillan of Windfall Oils and Mines Ltd., the collapse of Atlantic Acceptance and the Hamilton dredging scandal. They were complex matters requiring hard work but there was also plenty of fun. "In those days, a good sense of humour and a liking for scotch were conditions precedent to employment at the old 18 King Street address," he wrote years later. In 1976, at 40, he resigned as assistant deputy attorney general to become a defence lawyer, where his common touch approach charmed juries. He defended Keith Richards and served as special counsel for the Mount Cashel royal commission in Newfoundland that reviewed the sexual abuse of boys by Christian brothers. He spent many years in London, ON, where he wrote a weekly column in the Londoner chronicling the escapades of his many friends in Hyde Park. Clay married the awesome Julie Poole in 1961, raised Betsy, Katy and Amy, and along the way launched an innovative legal audio cassette business, took guitar lessons and held out hope that the Blue Jays would come out on top again. Until his final days, Clay marched to the beat of his own drum, maintained his sense of humour, shared fascinating stories about his career, and delighted in visits by UK grandchildren, Harriet, Nicholas and Hamish; and great-grandchild, Douglas. Enormous gratitude is owed to the magnificent staff at PeopleCare in Meaford, especially Tabitha and Cathy, and to Dana Page in Huntsville and Erin O'Neil, of London, both who remained loyal friends. Cremation has taken place and no fuss is planned, which is the Powell way. Online condolences & Guest Book at


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