‘We Lost a Giant Last Night’: Trailblazer on County Board of Education Dies

Odessa Shannon, the first African American woman elected to the Montgomery County Board of Education, passed away Sunday. She had been in hospice following a lengthy illness.

“Today the council is heartbroken to learn about the loss of our extraordinary friend and county leader Odessa Shannon. Montgomery County is a more just and fairer place because of Odessa’s public service, volunteerism and advocacy,” council members wrote in a statement.

“Odessa was a trailblazer, and her determination, grace and positivity will be sorely missed,” council members wrote.

Besides serving on the Board of Education, she was a special assistant to former County Executive Charles Gilchrist. She also was executive director of the county’s Human Rights Commission and founded the Human Rights Hall of Fame.

She was one of the original directors of the National Political Congress of Black Women.

Shannon was born in Washington, D.C. and was a teacher in the Baltimore public schools before entering the federal government. There, she become national program director for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In a Facebook post, Sen. Cheryl Kagan, wrote, “We lost a giant last night. Odessa M Shannon was a trailblazer and passionate, principled, engaged leader. She passed in hospice after a long illness.
Thank you, Odessa, for your warmth, courage, and commitment to Montgomery County and to the important issues we have faced over the decades.”

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