Dorothy L. McCullough, who had worked for the Urban Services Agency and also was a surrogate mother to prison inmates at the Maryland State Penitentiary, died Feb. 21 from kidney failure at Good Samaritan Hospital. She was 93.
“She was very dedicated when it came to politics and cared about communities and people,” said former Maryland Sen. Joan Carter Conway. “She worked hard and did everything she could for the betterment of African American communities, especially Sandtown-Winchester, when I was her supervisor at what became the Urban Services Agency, and where she had been assigned.”
“Dorothy had a certain exuberance, and was one of the greatest persons you’d ever want to meet,” said Howard N. Lyles, former warden of the Maryland State Penitentiary, who retired in 1988.
“She had a big heart and a strong desire to help youths get jobs,” Mr. Lyles said. “She made major contributions to the city and its children.”
Gale “Renee” Patillo first got to know Mrs. McCullough when they were Gilmor Homes neighbors.
“Of course, when I got to know her, she was Dorothy Bishop, and she was a powerfully influential woman within the community. If I needed something done, she was the go-to person. You’d tell her the situation and she’d put you in contact with the right person,” Ms. Patillo said. “She did whatever she could to help, and as far as I was concerned, she was a saint, and that’s who she was.”
The former Dorothy Lorraine Bishop, daughter of Edward Bishop, a longshoreman, and his wife, Mary Bishop, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Sandtown-Winchester.
After graduating in 1947 from what is now Carver Vocational-Technical High School where she had studied sewing, Mrs. McCullough moved to New York City and took a job working in the Garment District as a seamstress.
Returning to Baltimore in 1969, she went to work for the Community Action Agency as a neighborhood development assistant, and later joined the Model Cities program, which after merging, became the Urban Services Agency, from which she later retired.
While living in the Gilmor Homes and raising her daughter, Gwendolyn, Mrs. McCullough started an organization for young people that resulted in picnics, talent contests and other activities. She also became a fundraiser for Project Survival, a citywide basketball program for teenage boys.
“She loved working with kids and senior citizens,” Ms. Conway said.
In addition to being an indefatigable community activist, Mrs. McCullough was equally concerned about the incarcerated at the Maryland State Penitentiary where she and a group of volunteers began working in 1971 with SANDS, (Seeking a New Direction), an inmate advocacy organization.
“She cared about those African American guys and inmates who were being mistreated in prison,” Ms. Conway said. “She was committed to the work that they not be mistreated.
One of the inmates Mrs. McCullough connected with was Jack Ivory Johnson Jr., who was serving a life sentence for his role in the 1970 ambush and murder of Baltimore Police Officer Donald T. Sager and the wounding of his fellow patrol partner, Officer Stanley Sierakowski, as they sat in their patrol car on Myrtle Avenue in West Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood.
Marshall “Eddie” Conway, a Black Panther Party member who served nearly 44 years in prison for a crime he insisted he did not commit,” reported The Sun at his death last month, was also joined by Mr. Johnson and James E. Powell, also Black Panther Party members, in the incident.
Mr. Johnson was sentenced in 1971 in the case.
“Miss Bishop, we called her that back in those days, was one of my early supporters, and we hit it off. That was in the early 1970s,” said Mr. Johnson . “She was interested in everybody and she knew that prison was both racist and evil and some guys wound up there because they were bad [and] they just didn’t know any other way, but she was willing to work with us and the warden and the commissioner. She was always fighting for me and the other guys.”
He added: “She thought that we were treated like vegetable and deserved to die in prison, but she always said, ‘There must be some good in that guy.’”
While in prison, Mr. Johnson became a “model prisoner,” reported The Baltimore Sun in 2002, a leader, earned his high school equivalency diploma, a bachelor’s degree from Coppin State University, and participated as a member of numerous prison committees.
“She had the Concerned Citizens Committee and we had a Colts Coral in prison, and even though the guys didn’t have a lot of money, we helped raise money for her efforts in the community. We had our meetings and the guys would always behave when they were around Miss Bishop,” recalled Mr. Johnson.
He recalled when his fellow inmates were in the yard and some of them would suggest smoking a joint, he resisted.
“They’d say, ‘Let’s go behind the building and smoke marijuana,’ but I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to disappoint Miss Bishop,” he said.
He said it was Mrs. McCullough’s efforts that convinced prison authorities and the commissioner to agree to a work-release program of which he was a member.
“She would go with us and we’d go to places like Coppin and talk to the criminal justice students about our experiences and prison life and we’d go to other events.”
In 1982, more than a 100 inmates at the House of Correction who were joined by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Kweisi Mfume and state Sen. Troy Brailey, feted Mrs. McCullough at a three-hour dinner tribute that was called “This is Your Life, Dorothy.”
Mr. Johnson, who now lives in Chicago, was released from prison in 2010 after his sentence was vacated.
The Morning Sun
“I had served 39 years,” he said. “Miss Bishop wouldn’t give up fighting and thought I deserved another chance in life. She was one of the strongest cogs that made it all happen because when I went to prison, I was a loose cannon.”
“Dorothy was a very kind person and she’d take a lot of stuff, but she could be snappy at times when she needed to be,” Ms. Conway said.
“People like Miss B. very seldom get the recognition they so deserve,” Mr. Johnson said.
Mrs. McCullough, who lived at Stadium Place, enjoyed taking gambling trips to Atlantic City with her husband, William McCullough, a Navy veteran and tavern owner that she married in 1987. He died in 2012.
At Stadium Place, she also organized holidays dinners for widowed residents, and made sure they had a present.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. March 25 at The Ark Church, 1263 E. North Ave., Baltimore.
She is survived by her son, Joseph Green-Bishop of Dallas, Texas; a daughter, Gwendolyn Gilliam of Baltimore; three stepsons, Anthony McCullough of Pasadena, Purnell McCullough of Baltimore and Delcarlo McCullough of San Diego; a stepdaughter, Adrian McCullough of York, Pennsylvania; a grandson; and many nieces and nephews.