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ALEXANDRIA, VA: Jail Chaplain Contee: From Cell 7 Unit 2D to Ministry


By Harry Covert
Special to Virtueonline
June 29, 2012

Myron Contee was a pretty good basketball player. Back in the decade of the 70s, he was better than most and without doubt was headed to a professional career.

Born and raised in Alexandria he honed his skills at T. C. Williams High School where he graduated in 1974. His prowess wasn't lost on collegiate scouts and coaches and he ended up at George Mason University in Fairfax.

Myron could shoot well and play defense. His defensive work was always prevalent and when GMU was on the court, opponents were diligent knowing Contee could block and rebound with the best in the nation. He did, too.

He's not a bragger but Myron did work over the University of Maryland's Lenny Bias, frustrating the All-American who was headed to the NBA's Boston Celtics before an untimely death. Contee snatched rebounds from Bias, blocked his shots and even dunked cleanly over the Terps star. Maryland's fabled coach Lefty Driesell just shook his head.

Because of his athletic abilities, he was invited to tryout for the Washington Bullets and the international trial camp in Chicago. He had been the most valuable player at Mason his last two seasons.

Following playing days from 1974-79, Myron was an assistant coach at Mason, then moved onto a "sales" career, which happened to be more than a bit illegal. He began selling drugs, got a little careless identifying his clients and it wasn't long before he sold his wares to federal agents to support his $1,000 daily habit. His life took a major change.

His 10-year federal sentence was reduced to a year after pleading guilty. He finished his sentenced in what is now the William G Truesdale Adult Detention Center of the Alexandria Sheriff's Office and that's where he met John Poffenberger, former marine and chaplain.

"In 1994, under John's tutelage, I got serious about my Christian convictions," he said. "I was in cell 7, unit 2D on the second floor. The Lord spoke to me as plain as day and showed me I'd come back as a volunteer."

Myron's late wife, Florence, whom he married in 1994, was an Alexandria jail volunteer two to three days a week for 17 years. On weekends the couple ministered throughout Old Town. They are parents of five children and 13 grandchildren. Florence died on May 4. The story doesn't end as a volunteer. Chaplain Poffenberger retired three years ago and Sheriff Dana Lawhorne was named Contee the Alexandria Jail Chaplain. "I always run into old acquaintances and they listen."

Myron's duties are teaching inmates, scheduling weekly and Sunday services for all denominations.

Contee just didn't matriculate from inmate-to-volunteer-to-chaplain. He studied and graduated from the Capital Bible Institute and was licensed and ordained by Foxchase Tabernacle Baptist Church of Alexandria. He earned his ministry through hard work and dedication.

"We learn that many are 'called but few are chosen' and I'm intrigued that God showed me the work of a jail chaplain in the very cell I was confined," he said. "I believe in the principles of the Bible and I like to share them." Helping others is never something new to Chaplain Contee. He and Florence worked as a team. After marrying in 1994, they opened M&F Services and plumbing company. It's been successful. His workmanship has been praised for its excellence. In fact, he has employed numerous ex-inmates and assisted them in their transitions. He expects reliability and good work.

Contee is an excellent preacher, speaker and faithful to those inside and outside of the facility on Mill Road, Alexandria.

"What a calling," he said. "This is a blessed work and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity. It's easy to forget those who've committed crimes from minor to major, and I'm bound by the fact that Christians are not to forget 'those in bonds.' I don't and I won't."

Contee's funding comes from his friends and churches.

"I've come full circle and I'm grateful," he said.

Harry Covert writes from Alexandria, Va., and Frederick, Md. He contributes to numerous weekly newspapers, magazines and has edited national and weekly newspapers. He serves as editor at large for The Covert Letter.

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