Paul Edgecomb was a correctional officer in charge of the death row immates at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary in The Green Mile. He is portrayed by Tom Hanks, while Dabbs Greer portrays the old Paul Edgecomb.
In 1999 Paul is an elderly man living in a retirement home. One day while watching the film Top Hat, Paul breaks down crying and is escorted out of the living room by his friend Ellie. In privacy, Paul recounts his time spent as a corrections officer on the Green Mile in 1935, specifically the events surrounding the arrival and eventual execution of John Coffey .
He explains John's arrival, and the eventual revelation that John was not only innocent of the crimes he was convicted and sentenced to death for, but he also possessed supernatural abilities such as healing and intuition. Demonstrating them by healing Paul of the bladder infection he had been suffering from leading up to John's arrival, as well as the death of the pet mouse Mr. Jingles , and Warden Hal Moores ' wife Melinda of her brain tumor. His intuition was exhibited when fellow inmate Wild Bill grabbed hold of John's arm, at which point John saw into Bill's heart and realized he was the true rapist and murderer of the young girls, the crime that John had been sentenced for.
After Paul devised a plan with his fellow corrections officers to sneak John off the Mile so they could have him visit Melinda Moores and heal her tumor, John reveals to Paul upon their return that Bill is the true perpetrator of the children's deaths. In order to impart this knowledge to Paul, John explains he must give Paul a piece of himself.
Devastated by the truth of John's situation, Paul offers to turn a blind eye and let John walk out of the prison to escape death. John declines, explaining that the world around him is in great pain, and he feels that pain more intimately than most people. He welcomes an end to feeling everyone else's suffering, however scary it might be. However, Paul fears that God will judge him for executing John. Nevertheless, Paul reluctantly carried out his duty and saw John's execution through, noting that this was the last execution both he and Brutal went through, as they both put in for transfers to a youth corrections facility thereafter, hoping to intervene in young lives to help them avoid the same fate as those he had known on the Green Mile.
Paul later explains to Ellie that this gift from John has extended his life significantly, that he was 44 years old when John was executed in 1935, and was 108 years old at the time he was sharing his story with her. He further explained that John saw it as a gift, and that he meant it for good, but the resulting side effects have been that Paul had to watch everyone he cared about succumb to old age and pass away, including his wife, children, friends, and co-workers, and eventually even Ellie herself. Paul believes that this impartation of John's spirit that has prolonged his life is, in a way, his punishment for allowing one of God's miracles to die unjustly.