When the idea was born to name the second floor auditorium at Needham Town Hall after someone who has given a lion share to the town over the years, the Historical Commission could think of no person greater than James Hugh Powers.
The request to name the floor after Powers was submitted by Carol Boulris, chairman of the Historical Commission. Appearing before the Board of Selectmen last week were Gloria Greis, clerk of the Historical Commission, and Rick Hardy, a Commission member.
"This is going to be a beautiful, important community space," Greis said of the auditorium, also known as the "Great Hall," upon its completion. "We couldn't think of someone with more significant contributions to the town than James."
A student at Harvard College in the fall of 1942, Powers left the following spring to join the United States Marine Corps. After 33 months of service in World War II, Powers was honorably discharged and returned to Harvard, where he graduated in 1946.
"He has shown a dedication to the community and the country," said Hardy, "and he should be honored."
As a member of several commissions in the General Court of Massachusetts, Powers specialized in organization and finance of state and local governments, home rule and other financial matters in relation to government. Additionally, he has authored 48 reports related to state and county government.
"This town is very aware of funding between the towns and states, and it started with James," said Selectman Jerry Wasserman. "He inspired us. He knew where the holes were and how to fix them. He's an inspiration to me."
Despite being heavily involved with state work, though, Powers never took himself out of Needham affairs. Over the years he has been a powerful member of everything from the Salary and Wage Committee to the Advisory Council of Glover Hospital and the Public Building Study Committee to the Special Committee on School Finance. He has also been awarded by groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Richard P. Melick Foundation.
Now 87, Powers is the longest-serving member of Needham's Town Meeting having been elected for the past 59 years.
"One thing I'm most pleased of is that James can celebrate this (honor) with us and share in the love and support," said Selectman Denise Garlick.
The next step in having the Great Hall officially named for Powers, whom Selectman John Bulian called a "giant" of this town, entails selectmen voting on the measure at their July 13 meeting.