George Howell didn't think he should serve as chairman of the board of trustees at The Paideia School. He didn't think of himself as a leader. So when school officials broached him with the idea, he humbly declined.
They wouldn't hear it, though. Mr. Howell had a respected record, set in the 1980s when he served on Paideia's board of trustees. He, said headmaster Paul Bianchi, exemplified leadership.
The Atlanta attorney was always upbeat and positive. He understood group dynamics. He knew when to talk. When to listen. When to step back. When to grab the reigns.
Mr. Howell served as chairman from 2001 to 2006. In his tenure, the trustees completed, among other projects, a long-range facilities plan and launched a capital campaign that raised more than $25 million. Because of him, Mr. Bianchi said, The Paideia School is a better place.
"Some people take more than their share of the oxygen in the room," he said, "and run things that way. He wasn't that way, but the results he got made it a different room. He always kept the good of the school front and center in his deliberations. He loved Paideia."
On Tuesday, George Leslie Howell, of Atlanta, died at home of cancer. He was 69. The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Monday at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Murray Brothers Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Mr. Howell was born in Chattanooga, the eldest of three children. When he was 16, he entered Knoxville College and earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry. He worked as a chemist for nearly three years, but didn't find the field gratifying.
In 1968, he graduated cum laude from Howard University Law School. In the 1970s, the cycler and jogger was an associate for the city law firms of Moore, Alexander & Rindskopf; and Jackson, Patterson, Parks & Franklin.
Recently, he had been a managing partner of Howell & Associates. He specialized in public finance, general corporate and small-business law. He was associated with Adorno & Yoss LLC of Atlanta, too.
For fun, he handled uncontested adoptions.
"It was the joy of his day when he put a child with people who wanted to love them," said Mtamanika Youngblood, his wife of 26 years. "He loved doing that."
Mr. Howell served as general counsel for organizations that included the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistant Fund; the Southern Cooperative Development Fund; National Conference of Black Mayors; Zoo Atlanta; and West End Medical Centers.
The art collector and patron helped establish the Hammonds House Museum and the National Black Arts Festival. He served on the board of directors of the High Museum and in other roles.
In 1979, Mr. Howell joined the Paideia board of trustees; he served seven years. It was during that period he founded a school group called the Black Parent Organization, which exists to this day.
In 1990, the jazz lover wrote and self-published a book called "The Nonprofit Directors Handbook."
"He wrote that book and sold it inexpensively so people would have guidance to run their organizations," his wife said.
He'd just completed a second edition before his death.
Additional survivors include two daughters, Leslye Howell Jones of Douglasville and Nika Howell of Augusta; a sister, Linda Howell of Mableton: a brother, Nathaniel Howell of Buford; and two grandchildren.