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Paul Showell, a Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services official who oversaw its Division of Capital Construction, dies

Paul Showell was an active member of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP.
Paul Showell was an active member of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP.

Paul Showell, a state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services official who directed its Division of Capital Construction and Facility Management and was also an active member of the NAACP, died March 18 from a heart attack at Joyce’s Home for New Beginnings Inc., a Randallstown assisted living facility. The Woodstock resident was 80.

“Paul was a godly man who cared about people,” Mark A. Vernarelli, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, wrote in an email. “He was raised in a church family and lived quite a diverse life, serving others, the state, and his country.”

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Odessa Alston worked as an administrative assistant alongside Mr. Showell in the Division of Capital Construction and Facility Management.

“Paul was just a nice, nice all-around person, but was very serious and dedicated about the work,” Ms. Alston said. “He brought intelligence, knowledge, wisdom and a sense of humor, and blended it together, and his sense of humor brightened the day. He was the guy who soothed out the office atmosphere, made everything work, and was in a class all his own.”

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Paul Showell, son of Winfield Amos Showell, a jazz trumpeter who was pastor of the First Apostolic Faith Church, and his wife, Genevieve Frances Showell, was born in Baltimore and raised in a home at the intersection of Broadway and Federal Street.

After graduating in 1958 from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1962 from what is now Morgan State University, and a master’s degree in 1968 in social work from the University of Maryland School of social Work.

Following his graduation from Morgan, Mr. Showell enlisted in the Army, serving as a medic in Germany until being discharged in 1965.

“While stationed abroad, the thought of his one true love, Lenora Merritt, sustained him and he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her,” his son, Romel Winfield Showell of Pikesville, wrote in a biographical profile.

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“Before he shipped out, they stood under the North Star on the steps of her West Baltimore home and made a pact to gaze at that star nightly and think of each other,” he wrote. “That way, no matter how many miles separated them, they’d still be together.”

The couple married in 1966, and once they raised their son, they became parents again when they raised a nephew, Theron J. Merritt, and their niece, Kelly Marie Merritt.

The lived in Edmondson Village from 1966 to 1989, when they moved to Woodstock.

Mr. Showell was a social worker for the city Department of Social Services for several years at the Cylburn Center, working with abandoned youth, before joining the state Division of Corrections in 1970, and after a short period he was asked to serve on the Community Corrections Task Force.

“It was the first kind of an initiative in the country which sought to address alternatives to incarceration and the needs of those returning to the community after incarceration,” his son wrote.

When the task force’s work was completed, he was named an administrator in the state Division of Corrections, where he was the administrator for State Use Industries. He completed his career as the administrator for budget and logistics in the Division of Capital Construction and Facility Management, overseeing budgeting and architectural design, and was responsible for two dozen correctional facilities in the state. He retired in 2010.

Betty Jean Goodman was a secretary in Mr. Showell’s department.

“He was a funny kind of guy but very serious about his work. He was the kind of guy who added levity to any situation,” Ms. Goodman said. “He was very accurate in the things he did for his work. He also mentored a lot of people — sometimes for several months — or he could do mentoring with two sentences.”

A keystone of Mr. Showell’s life was being an advocate for those who had been marginalized and disenfranchised.

He was an active member of the Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP, on which he served as first vice president, board member and membership chair. He was responsible for bringing the organization’s national convention to Baltimore in 2000.

“Paul was very dedicated and believed in the goals of the NAACP and its mission trying to improve life for all,” said Barbara A. Cooper, who worked with Mr. Showell at the Department of Corrections, where she was public information officer in its pretrial division from 1991 to 2011.

“He was a great influence on the NAACP’s Baltimore Branch and the national organization,” Ms. Cooper said. “He deferred his own personal goals to achieve the work of the organization and worked hard to advance it, and was a very effective leader. The NAACP says, ‘Fight for Freedom,’ and Paul always said, ‘We’re freedom fighters.’ ”

Mr. Showell was a community activist for the Harbor East Empowerment Zone. Working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he helped lay the groundwork for Apostolic Towers and Berea Apostolic, two senior-living complexes.

He was an active member of First Apostolic Faith Church, the church of his father, who became a bishop. He was a deacon, trustee and Cub Scout leader. He and a brother, Franklin C. Showell of Baltimore, joined with their father in developing a construction plan for a new edifice for the church.

Mr. Showell was an avid runner who could be seen every Saturday and Sunday in the early hours running the though the back hills of Druid Hill Park.

He also was a fan of Porsche Carrera 911 sports cars. “It was his dream car, and he fell in love with it when he was in the Army in Germany,” his son said in a telephone interview. “His mom and grandmother sent him money to buy one, but he purchased an engagement ring for my mother instead.”

Funeral services were held at his church on March 27.

In addition to his wife of 55 years, his son and his brother, Mr. Showell is survived by another brother, Joseph M. Showell of Randallstown, bishop of First Apostolic Faith Church; three sisters, Sharon Green of White Marsh, Shelia Montgomery of Cockeysville, and Carolyn D. Showell of Hunt Valley; and two granddaughters.

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