When I was a child, people would pat me on the head and tell me that I was going to grow up to be just like my mommy and daddy,” says 27-year-old Pamela Allyson Powell. Mommy is June Allyson and Daddy, the late Dick Powell. For a couple of seasons Pam, the adopted daughter of the two movie stars, did give show biz a whirl. But for the past three years she has worked for the White House, most recently as the $21,000-a-year Director for Youth Affairs. Pam’s job is to counsel groups ranging from the Future Farmers of America to the YWCA.
The plumpish Pam works 15-hour days (and many weekends) in her spacious office next door to the White House. Although she once was a regular on the embassy party circuit, she now prefers quiet gatherings with a few close friends. As often as three times a week, she consults with President Ford. “He’s so straight and genuine,” she bubbles. “He loves young people and he listens to them and respects them.”
Her first years in Washington were not so serene, mainly because her boss, Richard Nixon, was in trouble. “I’m still confused about it,” she says of Watergate. “We kept thinking every new revelation would be the last.” Pam had grown fond of the Nixons during the 1972 campaign when she served as chairman of Young Voters for the President. She and Julie Nixon Eisenhower often stumped together and are still good friends.
Despite growing up in glittery Hollywood, Pam never played the role of movie brat. At 9 she attended board meetings with her father, who was running Four Star Television Corp., which turned out such long-running series as The Rifleman and Wanted—Dead or Alive. “I knew Dad more as a businessman than an actor,” she says. “He’d take me along hoping the experience would rub off.” Powell died of cancer when Pam was 14.
At 12 she got her first taste of politics, licking envelopes for Nixon’s first presidential campaign. Her parents were hard-shell Republicans who took much of the credit for luring onetime liberal Democrat Ronald Reagan into the GOP. Their daughter’s politics did not sit well with her school chums at the local Marymount School, where Sen. John Kennedy was the popular choice. “I was the only one in the entire school who was for Nixon in 1960,” says Pam, who converted to Catholicism at the age of 16, “so I really had to know the issues.”
After graduating with honors from Marquette University in 1969, Pam worked as a reporter, a press agent, then as a New York actress in such soaps as The Edge of Night and The Secret Storm.
In 1971 she joined a group called Celebrities for the President and soon was stumping for Nixon. At her first rally she followed 6’7″ Rogers Morton to the stand. Pam, who is “five foot nothing,” could not see her speech on top of the podium. “So I grabbed the mike and peeked out around the side. I learned that night never to depend on a written text.”
She remains close to her mother and brother Richard, 25, an aspiring actor. “We’ve never spent a holiday apart,” says June, who shows a typical mother’s concern for Pam’s recent weight gain. “I don’t understand how she can be so active and still put on weight,” frets June, who at 52 is a willowy 5’1″, 87 pounds. “But I’m not the nagging kind.” She sees great things in store for her daughter. “Once I thought Pam would end up being a correspondent—she has always been so interested in world affairs. Now we joke a lot and say one day she is going to be the first woman President.”