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March 06, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

KING OF THE CATS: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. by Wil Haygood (Houghton Mifflin: $14.95; 476 pp., illustrated). In this vivid biography, Boston Globe correspondent Wil Haygood portrays the controversial Harlem congressman as a quintessential politician: Even as a college student, he manifested the "cunning, wit, arrogance, and intelligence" that would fuel both his rise and fall. Haygood describes Powell as calculating, self-serving and vain, but recognizes his importance as a legislator. Powell authored and/or helped to pass an impressive number of education, labor, anti-poverty and civil rights bills that benefited his constituents and many others. Tragically, his vanity prevented him from recognizing the hatred he engendered among his colleagues and the changing attitudes in Congress and America during the '60s.

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