Odessa Woolfolk

Educator and Community Activist

Odessa Woolfolk is known for her work as an educator, public administrator and civic activist. Her professional experience includes: Birmingham High School teacher, and senior level administrative positions with the JCCEO, the YWCA of Utica, New York, The Arbor Hill Interracial Council of Albany, New York, The New York State Urban Development Corporation of New York City, NY, and the Urban Reinvestment Task Force of Washington D.C. She was a Fellow at the Boston Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

During her extensive career with UAB, Woolfolk directed the Center for Urban Affairs, and taught urban history, amongst other roles. At her retirement from UAB, the University established the annual Odessa Woolfolk Presidential Community Service Award.

Woolfolk was frequently cited in local newspapers as one of the region’s most influential citizens because of her professional and volunteer service in the fields of housing, education, civil and human rights, community development, and public welfare. She continues to be known as one who crossed racial, ethnic, geographic and socio-economic boundaries to promote civic engagement, community leadership and race relations.

She was State Chair of the National Conference of Christian and Jews, first African American President of Operation New Birmingham’s Board of Directors and a founding member of Leadership Birmingham and Leadership Alabama. She was the driving force behind the establishment of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and was its opening administrator. She is its Emerita President and Board Chair. The Institute named a gallery in her honor.

A Birmingham native, she earned a B.A. Degree from Talladega College (Alabama) and a Master’s from Occidental College (California), and also pursued graduate students in political science.

Woolfolk has received scores of honors and was inducted into the Birmingham Gallery of Distinguished Citizens and the Alabama Academy of Honor. She was awarded honorary doctorates by Talladega College, The University of the South at Sewanee (Tennessee), Birmingham-Southern College and Occidental College (California).

Her personal credo is: Only enlightened intelligent personal concern for the world in which we live can solve the problems of our day.

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