William G. Contee Jr., 78, official with Department of Public Safety

April 18, 2005|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

William Gordon Contee Jr., a former administrator with the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, died of a heart attack April 11 at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. The Woodlawn resident was 78.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Contee graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1944 and enrolled in Morgan State College, now Morgan State University, shortly afterward. He briefly served in the Army and was stationed at Camp Lee, Va., before returning to Morgan in 1947.

While in college, Mr. Contee joined the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and worked nights as a mail sorter for the U.S. Postal Service. He did not enjoy his post office job and wanted a job where he could "get out and help people," said his brother, Howard Contee Sr. of East Baltimore.

He graduated from Morgan with a degree in sociology in 1950. Two years later, he began working as a parole officer for the state. Mr. Contee "felt it offered him the best opportunity as a black man," said his brother. "He felt there would be fewer barriers there, and he wanted a job where he could be somebody and make a good living."

Mr. Contee eventually became assistant regional administrator in the Baltimore area. He retired in 1988.

He stayed active by volunteering at Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary School, teaching a weekly technology class. He read stories to pupils every Thursday as part of the school's Drop Everything and Read program. He also helped raise money to buy a set of encyclopedias and other books for the school's library.

"He knew how important reading was to children," said his niece, Marsha Contee White of Northwest Baltimore. "He loved working with children."

During his retirement, Mr. Contee also volunteered at his church and frequently attended Morgan State basketball and football games. He also was a member of the university's alumni association and helped organize scholarship fund-raising events. He was awarded the Howard L. Cornish Distinguished Service Award in 2004.

"The school was something near and dear to his heart," said his niece. "The friends he made in his fraternity he made for life."

Funeral services were Saturday.

In addition to his brother and niece, he is survived by a daughter, Carole Contee-Stinson of Round Rock, Texas; a stepdaughter, Michelle Griffin-Sweeney of Round Rock; and a sister, Margaret C. Ogle of Baltimore. His marriage to Theodora Contee of Killeen, Texas, ended in divorce.

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