Week In Review

June 25, 2006

Anne Arundel

Death of publisher Merrill ruled suicide

Authorities found the body of publisher and former diplomat Philip Merrill on Monday off Maryland's Eastern Shore. An autopsy later revealed that he had committed suicide.

Merrill's body was found near a shipping channel southwest of Poplar Island, south of the Bay Bridge.

Merrill disappeared after setting sail from his Arnold home June 10. His boat was found near Plum Point in Calvert County later that day.

Responding to media inquiries, the family confirmed Tuesday that Merrill had apparently taken his own life.

"During the course of the [Department of Natural Resources] investigation into the disappearance of Phil, we have come to learn that the events that occurred on June 10 were in all likelihood the result of his own efforts to take his life," the family said in the statement.

An autopsy released Friday concluded that Merrill's death was a suicide. He had suffered a gunshot wound to the head.

Police had previously said that they did not think Merrill was the victim of foul play, and speculation had focused on an accidental death.

The family statement said Merrill, whose company operated The Capital newspaper and Washingtonian magazine, "underwent significant heart surgery over a year ago and was on several medications as a result of it."

In recent weeks, family members said, they had noticed that "his spirit had dimmed" and that he "was fatigued and unmotivated, a clear departure from his lifelong optimistic outlook."

"We were concerned for his welfare but never imagined that he would consider taking his own life," the statement said.

On Thursday, nearly 1,000 people mourned Merrill at a memorial service in Washington attended by Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

"You couldn't help [but] like a man who was so authentic, so intelligent and so enthusiastic," Cheney told the mourners. "If you walked into a room with 200 people and saw Phil Merrill, you wanted to talk to Phil."

Maryland and A sections, Tuesday-Saturday

Annapolis

Ex-Annapolis mayor Alfred Hopkins dies

Alfred Archibald Hopkins, a colorful booster of Annapolis who used handshakes, goodwill and shoe leather to win two terms as mayor and 24 years on the city council, died Thursday at Anne Arundel Medical Center. He was 80 and had battled Alzheimer's disease for two years.

Mr. Hopkins served in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s on the Annapolis city council before pulling an upset victory over Mayor Dennis Callahan in the 1989 Democratic primary.

He was mayor until 1997.

Mr. Callahan was better financed, better spoken and better organized, but Mr. Hopkins relied on the charm that earned him the nickname "affable Al" to win over constituents.

As a former sportswriter and sports editor at The Capital newspaper, and as a coach and PTA president, he seemed to know every person on every street corner, and they knew him.

They also knew of his personal tragedies; he lost two children to aneurysms.

"Al was the universal grandfather of Annapolis," said Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, who served on the council during Mr. Hopkins' tenure as mayor.

"If you've ever seen him in a parade, he was always there shaking hands. A natural with people and comforting, with a lot of personal tragedy, but from that experience he was able to reach out to others."

Mr. Hopkins told The Sun in 1997, on the eve of stepping down as mayor: "I'm not the greatest. I'm not super. I'm not the tops. I'm not No. 1. I'm just a nice guy."

Maryland section, Friday

Anne Arundel

New superintendent to be paid $225,000

Kevin M. Maxwell will earn $225,000 a year when he takes over as superintendent of the Anne Arundel County school system July 1, the school board agreed Wednesday.

Based on salary alone, Maxwell would be the fifth-highest-paid superintendent in Maryland, based on 2005-2006 salaries compiled by the state Department of Education.

When the board voted Wednesday to officially hire Maxwell, student board member Pallas A. Snider abstained and Paul G. Rudolph voted against appointing Maxwell, who most recently was a community superintendent in Montgomery County.

Rudolph noted the decision to replace three administrators so that Maxwell could bring in his own people. It was the last board meeting for Snider and Rudolph, whose terms end June 30.

Maryland section, Thursday

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