By Harry Covert
Myron Contee was a pretty good basketball player. Back in the decade of the 70s, he was better than most and without doubt headed to a professional career.
Born and raised in Alexandria, Va., 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 wound up at George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax.
Myron could shoot well and play defense. His defensive play was dominant and when the Patriots were on the court, opponents were diligent knowing he could block and rebound with the best in the nation. He certainly did!
He’s not a braggart, but Myron did work over University of Maryland star Len Bias. He frustrated the All-American Bias, who was headed to the NBA’s Boston Celtics before his untimely death.
He snatched rebounds from Bias, blocked his shots and even dunked cleanly over the Terps’ star. Maryland’s fabled coach Charles G. (Lefty) Driesell just shook his head and stomped his foot—a signature move.
Myron’s athletic ability earned him a tryout with the Washington Bullets and the international basketball trial camp in Chicago. He was most valuable player at GMU his last two seasons, 1974-79.
Following his playing days, he was an assistant coach at GMU, then moved on to a “sales” career, which happened to be more than a bit illegal. He began selling illicit drugs and became careless identifying his clients. It wasn’t long before he sold his wares to federal agents in an effort to support his $1,000-a-day habit.
His life took a major change.
A ten-year federal sentence was reduced to one year after he pleaded guilty. Myron finished his sentence in what is now the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center of the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office.
He met John Poffenberger, former Marine and chaplain, at the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office lockup.
“In 1994, under John’s tutelage, I got serious about my Christian convictions,” he said. “I was in cell seven, 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 Alexandria. They are parents of five children and 16 grandchildren. Florence died May 4.
Myron’s story doesn’t end with him as a volunteer. When Chaplain Poffenberger retired three years ago Sheriff Dana Lawhorne named Contee the Alexandria Jail Chaplain..
“I always run into old acquaintances and they listen,” Myron recalls.
His duties include teaching inmates, and scheduling weekly and Sunday services for all denominations.
Contee just didn’t matriculate from inmate-to-volunteer-to-chaplain. He studied and was graduated from Capital Bible Institute. He 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 not something new to Chaplain Contee. He and his wife Florence worked as a team. After marrying, they opened M&F Services and plumbing company. It has been successful. His workmanship has been praised for excellence. In fact, he has employed numerous ex-inmates and assisted them in their transition. He expects reliability and good work from his charges.
Contee is an excellent preacher and speaker and is 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.—©2012 Harry Covert
This article appeared in its original form at the Alexandria Gazette and is used with permission of the author and the Gazette.
You may contact Harry at firstname.lastname@example.org