1st African American woman elected to Montgomery Co. education board dies

odessa shannon
Trailblazing Montgomery County, Maryland, leader, activist and public servant Odessa Shannon dies at 91. (Screenshot courtesy Montgomery County Council via YouTube)

Trailblazing Montgomery County, Maryland, leader, activist and public servant Odessa Shannon died Sunday. She was 91 years old.

Shannon was the first African American woman elected to the Montgomery County Board of Education. In that position, she fought to ensure African American children and families received the resources they needed to close the achievement gap and “gave them a fair shot to reach their full potential,” a Montgomery County news release said.

Shannon was also the executive director of the county’s Human Rights Commission. She was also the special assistant to former County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist.

She served as a program director at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a director of the National Political Congress of Black Women and as a member of the National Association of Human Rights Workers.

In addition, she served on many community boards, including the NAACP, the Commission on Aging and the Montgomery Housing Partnership.

She received numerous awards and recognition for her work and involvement in human rights, education, community leadership and the advancement of women and African Americans.

“Odessa believed in the promise of Montgomery County and spent her life pushing us to live up to that promise. She was a friend who inspired me, and so many others, through her passion to make this County a better place to live,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement.

Watch a video tribute from the Montgomery County Council on the life of Shannon below.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She has a master’s degree in interactive journalism from American University and a master’s degree in English Literature from The George Washington University.

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