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County Executive Statement Regarding the Death of County Human Rights and Civil Rights Leader Odessa Shannon

For Immediate Release: Monday 18 May

Today, Montgomery County lost an incredible leader, activist and public servant. Odessa Shannon was a human rights and civil rights icon in our County who committed her life to fighting for the rights of others. She believed that change could not happen if people did not dedicate themselves to advocating for the voiceless, and she committed her life to being their voice. 

As the first African American woman elected to the Montgomery County Board of Education, Odessa fought to ensure that 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. Odessa served as executive director of the Montgomery County Human Rights Commission and had a long career working for equal rights. She also served as a special assistant to former County Executive Gilchrest. She was a National Program Director at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission working with state and local human rights agencies across the nation. She was also one of the original directors of the National Political Congress of Black Women and highly respected member of the National Association of Human Rights Workers.  

Odessa Shannon served on many community boards, including NAACP, the Commission on Aging and Montgomery Housing Partnership. She was also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and eastern regional director of Jack and Jill of America. In addition, she received a number awards for her work, including the Human Rights Hall of Fame, Hornbook Award for Outstanding Service to Education, MLK Humanitarian Award, Women of Vision Award of the Commission for Women, the Roscoe R. Nix Distinguished Community Leadership Award and the African American Living Legend Award.

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. Odessa’s legacy will never be forgotten because she influenced others who must now pick up the mantle and continue her fight. I urge the people of Montgomery County to celebrate Odessa Shannon and the difference she made in this County.

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Release ID: 20-011