Melvin J. Johnson, 47, social worker, counselor

March 12, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin and Gail Gibson | Jennifer McMenamin and Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

Melvin Jerome Johnson, a social worker and drug treatment counselor who wanted to help residents of the tough Baltimore neighborhoods where he grew up, died March 5 of complications from a blood clot at Maryland General Hospital. He was 47.

Born and raised in East Baltimore, Mr. Johnson graduated from Dunbar High School in 1971. He attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond in 1973 and later earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Baltimore, attending classes at night while he worked various jobs.

As a boy, he delivered the News American and the Afro-American newspapers. When neighborhood crime made his route too dangerous, he worked as a stock clerk in his aunt's store, Watty's Grocery and Deli on the east side, until he left to attend college.

After returning to Baltimore, Mr. Johnson worked as an addiction counselor in various Baltimore drug programs, a warehouse supervisor at Calvert Wholesale Florist and a case manager at two Baltimore Department of Social Services neighborhood centers.

Mr. Johnson had returned to the agency about three years ago after working for the department for much of the 1980s, said his sister, Carolyn P. Britton of Odenton. The work was his passion, she said.

"He loved his work," Britton said. "He just loved helping people."

Mr. Johnson was working at the agency's Upton center March 2 when he became ill. He was hospitalized and died three days later.

Known as "Mel-Koolie" among his friends, Mr. Johnson enjoyed the theater, concerts, gospel plays and writing poetry.

He was engaged to marry Priscilla Lann of Baltimore.

A 1988 marriage to Darlene Hundley ended in divorce. The couple had two sons, Donte Johnson, 11, and Derron Johnson, 10.

Services will be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1300 Druid Hill Ave.

In addition to his sons, fiancee and sister, Mr. Johnson is survived by two other sisters, Rosalyn Johnson and Charlethea Johnson, and a brother, Vincent Johnson. All are of Baltimore.

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