Howard University will dedicate the renovated old Freedmen's Hospital building Thursday in honor of the late Dr. C.B. Powell, the largest single benefactor in the school's history.

Dr. Powell, who died in 1977, was a Howard medical graduate in 1920 who went on to practice in New York City, later branching into insurance and other fields and becoming publisher of the weekly New York Amsterdam News.

Born in Suffolk, Va., in 1894, Dr. Clilan Bethany Powell was the child of former slaves who worked his way through a black college in Virginia before moving on to Howard. He was one of the first black Americans to become an X-ray specialist.

Dr. Powell received Howard's 1968 alumni award for distinguished achievement. One of the richest black men in America, he died in 1977, leaving the value of his estate, after specific bequests, to Howard. That sum could amount to about $6 million.

The Powell Building houses Howard's school of communications, the university-owned television station WHMM-TV, the office of security and safety services, the child development center and other classrooms and office space.

The old name of the Powell Building--Freedmen's--is evocative of a (thankfully) bygone era. Freedmen were, of course, freed slaves. The hospital now bears the university's name. But who was Howard?