Edward Hall Covell Jr.

Edward Hall Covell Jr. ( )

Edward Hall Covell Jr., a leader in Maryland's broiler industry who owned a farm supply business and was named to the Poultry Hall of Fame, died of pneumonia Friday at the Blakehurst retirement community in Towson. The longtime Talbot County resident was 92.

He was born in Kansas while his father, Edward H. Covell Sr., an oil firm engineer and Army officer, was on assignment. His mother, Caroline Davenport Willis, had been a World War I Army nurse stationed in France.

He was a 1938 graduate of Centreville High School on the Eastern Shore, where he played soccer and basketball and set records running track.

"My father had wonderful memories of growing up in Centreville. Many of his childhood friends became his lifelong friends," said his daughter, Linda Reilly of St. Michaels. "Ed was an avid outdoorsman from an early age. He enjoyed spending many summers on the farm at East Bonfield in Oxford where his mother grew up."

He attended Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, Del., and the University of Maryland, College Park, where he studied agronomy. He left school to enlist in the Marine Corps during World War II.

On April 15, 1944, he married Elizabeth M. "Betsy" Mumma, a fellow University of Maryland student. She was a descendant of the owners of one of the Antietam Battlefield farms.

The couple resided in Baltimore when Mr. Covell worked at Southern States Cooperative.

After the war, he moved to Denton and began the Willis and Covell Co., a farm supply, feed, seed and grain business.

"He ran a mill and worked very hard," his daughter said.

He was its president until 1958 when the business merged with J. McKenny Willis and Sons.

In the late 1950s, Mr. Covell began his association with the Consumer Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He represented his industry in the creation of Poultry Product Inspections Act regulations.

Family members said that from 1958 to 1982, he served on the National Broiler Council Board and served three terms as chairman. During the John F. Kennedy administration, he was named to the National Broiler Advisory Committee.

In 1962, he merged his firm with other farm-related businesses in Easton, St. Michaels and Milford, Del., to form Bayshore Foods Inc. He was its president from 1969 to 1979, when it had become a subsidiary of the Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Kane-Miller Corp.

Through mergers, Mr. Covell became a Country Pride Foods Ltd. vice president and was manager of its Delmarva division. In 1980, he was named vice president of the ConAgra Foods Poultry Division.

"Ed was personable and easy to like," said former Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, who was a friend from their days together in Denton. "He had a good personality and a good business sense."

In 1965, he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the National Defense Executive Reserve to represent the Agriculture Department. His role was to consider the U.S. food situation following a nuclear attack.

Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew named him chairman of the Commission in Maryland to Study the State Board of Agriculture. In 1969, President Richard M. Nixon named him vice chairman for Agriculture Production on the White House Conference for Food, Nutrition and Health. The panel studied what would become a national nutrition policy.

In 1982, Mr. Covell became semiretired and formed his own business, the Covell Co. He was a government and industry liaison and worked from an Easton office.

He spent six years as a director of the Baltimore branch of the Federal Reserve Bank and an additional three years as chairman. From 1986 to 1991, he served as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Mr. Covell received numerous awards. He was named the 1966 Delmarva Distinguished Citizen. He received the Scofield Trophy for Leadership in Maryland's Poultry Industry. And the Southeastern Poultry and Egg Association gave him the 1972 Workhorse of the Year Award.

He was named to the Poultry Hall of Fame in 1998. In 1999, he was recognized by the University of Maryland Alumni Association-College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and also for community leadership and contributions to agribusiness by the Centreville High School Alumni Association.

He was a director of the Wye Institute's Eastern Shore Community Council. He traveled throughout Europe with People to People, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Agriculture and the Feed Grains Council.

He was a past member of the vestry of Christ Episcopal Church in Denton and Holy Trinity Church in Oxford.

He belonged to Ducks Unlimited and was a founding committee member of the Waterfowl Festival.

Graveside services will be held at noon Saturday at the Oxford Cemetery in Oxford.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 13 years, Joyce Quillin-Covell of Towson; two sons, Richard P. Covell of Easton and Edward "Ned" H. Covell III of Salisbury; a stepdaughter, Jill Baer of Towson; and two step-granddaughters. His wife of nearly 50 years, Elizabeth "Betsy" M. Covell, died in 1993.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com.