Martha Louise Shea McDowell

Public Relations Executive

Martha Louise Shea McDowell, 80, a former public relations executive for The Washington Post and businesswoman, died July 6 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore of complications related to lung cancer surgery.

Ms. McDowell, a McLean resident, served as public relations manager of The Post during the strike by a pressmen's union in 1975. She was instrumental in developing a public relations program for the crisis. Additionally, she edited copy in the newsroom during the strike.

Ms. McDowell was born in Tulsa. She attended Manhattanville College in New York and later graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She was hired by the university to teach copy reading, among other subject. In 1946, she worked as a reporter for the Springfield Missouri News-Leader, where one of her first assignments, at age 22, was covering Winston Churchill's famous "Iron Curtain" speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo.

Moving to Chicago in 1950, Ms. McDowell worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News for two years. After several years as a stay-at-home mother, she moved with her family to Virginia in 1956, and Ms. McDowell began freelance writing and doing public relations work. She joined The Post in 1975 and, in addition to her work during the strike, served as a public relations liaison between the paper and the production company filming "All the President's Men" (1976).

Ms. McDowell, who was long active in community affairs and Virginia Republican politics, eventually started a public relations and political consulting firm, M. Shea McDowell Advertising. Her clients included the Navy, the National Automobile Dealers Association and Republican members of Congress from Virginia. She also wrote articles that appeared in such magazines as McCall's, Parents and Your New Baby, as well as in The Post and the Washington Star. Ms. McDowell also wrote a book on American Indian jewelry.

She was a member of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, the Greater McLean Republican Women's Club and the Virginia Federation of Republican Women. She loved to ride horses on her family's small farm outside Vienna and traveled extensively in Latin America, Europe and Asia. She was fluent in Spanish.

Her marriage to Hobart K. McDowell Jr. ended in divorce.

Survivors include four children, H. Kelliston McDowell III of El Segundo, Calif., Tina S. McDowell of Forest Heights, Joseph S. McDowell of Corpus Christi, Tex., and Robert M. McDowell of Vienna; and three grandchildren.