Paul E. Fitzgerald was born in Welch, WV on November 26, 1926, to J.B. Fitzgerald and Mary White
Fitzgerald. He died on December 3, 2020, in Roanoke VA, of multiple medical conditions.
After high school graduation, his work included coal mining. He was a member of the UMWA, and would later hang his framed Coal Miners Certificate on the bathroom wall, which he described as an appropriate place of honor. He told stories of encounters with West Virginia State Troopers, while driving carloads of freshly produced alcohol down unpaved mountain sides. He also worked as a card house dealer, and would later put his children to bed with advice including, “never draw to an inside straight.”
He entered the US Army as an enlisted man during WW2, serving as a heavy weapons crewman. After completing Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in charge of troop trains within the US.
Upon discharge, he went to Journalism School at West Virginia University. There, he met and married (Joan) Lee Davis in 1950. While in Journalism school, he was a walk-on to the WVU football team, then coached by Dudley DeGroot, for journalistic purposes. While at WVU, he worked as editor of the state newspaper for the IWW.
After journalism school, Paul and Lee became managing editor and news editor, respectively, of the newspaper in Elkton, Maryland, The Cecil Whig. Paul was ejected from a routine meeting of the Elkton Town Council, subsequently pursuing the issue in a manner credited with leading to Maryland’s first Open Meetings Law— a matter that the Fitzgeralds had discussed with Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin while walking the Chesapeake Bay Bridge during its construction.
He took a post as the first managing editor of PS Magazine, a publication of the US Army. It was a hip pocket sized, cartoon style magazine about equipment maintenance, with a focus on preventive maintenance. There, he met Will Eisner, who served as the magazine’s creative and production contractor. Eisner is known as the creator of “The Spirit” comic strip, the “Contract with God” trilogy, and his work with sequential art led to his recognition as “a grandfather of the graphic novel.” The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, known as the Eisner Awards, are the comic industry’s equivalent of the Academy Awards, and are given annually at the San Diego Comic-Con. Fitzgerald wrote an extensive book on the art and collaboration, “Will Eisner and PS Magazine,” which was itself nominated for the Eisner Award in 2010. While working for PS Magazine, he was trained and certified as a guided missiles ordinance officer.
The Army moved PS magazine from Maryland to New Jersey, and then to Kentucky at Fort Knox. While in Kentucky he was inducted by the Governor into the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. He explained this to his family as “a matter of being in the right bar at the right time.”
Paul and Lee moved to Botetourt County, Virginia, in 1963, to become shareholders of the publishing group for three community newspapers, The Fincastle Herald, The Vinton Messenger, and The New Castle Record. For a time, they also published The Staunton Mirror. Their newspapers were frequent recipients of awards by the VPA, the Virginia Press Association.
After selling their newspaper interests in 1984, Paul became a public relations consultant for churches in the Washington, D.C. area. He was twice elected as president of The Religious Public Relations Council of Washington, D.C. In 1988, he won the Public Relations Society of America’s highest annual award, the Silver Anvil, for institutional programs for the historic landmark National City Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on Thomas Circle in downtown Washington.
He went to the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, and was then recruited by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, where he served from 1986 until his retirement in 1994 as Chief of Communication Services, which included Congressional Liaison. In that role, he served as a lecturer and instructor in crisis management at the FBI Academy, at Quantico.
Paul continued community service into his 90s, with service on the Botetourt County Electoral Board.
He was honored by Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. The John Hay Library created the Paul E. Fitzgerald Memorial Collection of Will Eisner Military Art. In the 2019 announcement, Peter Harrington, the curator, stated that Fitzgerald’s collection “should include a copy of the most important and extensive work on Eisner and ‘PS Magazine’ – your own book, ‘Will Eisner and PS Magazine,’ and other related working papers and material.”
He is survived by his wife, Lee (Davis) Fitzgerald, son Dr. Patrick Fitzgerald and his wife, Ruth Abbott, of Portland OR; daughter Kathleen Fitzgerald and her husband Robert Lee, of Greensboro NC;, son Clay Fitzgerald and his wife Juanita Fitzgerald, of Fincastle VA; grandson Jeffrey Johnson and his wife, Dana, of Greensboro NC; granddaughter Elizabeth Hoppner, her husband Josh, and great-grandson Oliver, of Lexington KY; and grandson Daniel Fitzgerald, of Portland OR.
A gathering for observance will be planned for the spring.
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