Mrs. Odessa McKenzie Shannon
July 4, 1928 – May 17, 2020
91 Years of a Life Well Lived!
Born on July 4, 1928 to Gladys and Raymond McKenzie, Odessa Shannon has led an extraordinary life of accomplishments, advocacy and commitment to public service, Valedictorian of her Dunbar High school class, Dean’s List at Smith College, Northampton Massachusetts, National Program Director, Senior Executive, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, retired from the federal government and rose to Senior Executive in Montgomery County government, first woman Special Assistant to the County Executive, then Deputy Director the Department of Family, and retired as Director of the County’ s Office of Human Rights. Her passion about education, especially that of African American students, led her to campaign for a seat on the Board of Education. Her success marked the first election of an African American woman in a political policy- making position in Montgomery County., Deemed a “living legend” during her lifetime, she is credited with encouraging and opening the doors for many more African Americans seeking political office in the County. She received numerous awards throughout her career for her many accomplishments and advocacy, including the Lifetime Achievement award for volunteerism from President Obama, the Distinguished Community Leadership Award from County Executive Leggett, Maryland’s Hornbook award and the MCPS award for Distinguished Service to Public Education from the Board of Education, NAACP (Washington Committee) Legal Defense and Educational award for Exceptional Achievement in Advancing the Rights of Minorities and Women, ,and the Outstanding Commitment to Community Service from the Montgomery County Democratic Committee. She is also listed in several Who’s Who publications. A strong advocate for human and civil rights, and knowing the sacrifices and hardships encountered by those who also were pioneers, she created the Human Rights Hall of Fame, embodied in the statue carved by a student from Montgomery College, located in the entrance of the Executive Office building. Bronze plaques contain the names of those inducted biannually. She also created the Human Rights Diversity Camp that brings together students from diverse racial, cultural, religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds for a shared weekend experience in interracial and intercultural understanding, exposure to diversity concepts, cultural competencies, and team building skills. Although active politically and engaged in civic activities, her first loves were her children, Mark (deceased) and Lisa. Engaged in their many activities, she served as President of the local Jack and Jill chapter and then as Regional Director of the Eastern Region. Mark graduated from Springfield College, Springfield Mass, Lisa. Magna Cum Laude from Howard University. Both children were academically and athletically gifted and her pride and joy. Next to her family were her closest and longtime friends, Ruby Rubens, Juanetta Curl, Helen Holston, Cemora Newsome and Lillie Fitzgerald who were anchors during all storms.
Her hobbies were bridge, travel and painting. Known for her kindness, grace, dignity, keen mind, and mostly her smile, Odessa will be sorely missed. Her stories will be shared, they will be remembered, and others will find inspiration in the way they live their life. In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to consider making a donation to Colesville Methodist Church or to The Shannon Fund via LPL Financial, which awards academic scholarships. A virtual Celebration of Life will be live-streamed from Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home, Saturday, May 30 at 11:00. To post a memory: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/silver-spring-md/odessa-shannon-9187103
Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home
Mrs. Odessa McKenzie Shannon
May 25, 2020
Although my time with Odessa was very short lived, she is someone I admired a lot! As sick as she was, Odessa kept that radiant smile and was a pleasure to be around. It is for personal reasons that I took to her right way. My Mom suffered the same illness and it has been a flashback for me.
Odessa remained active with her civic duties, as well as getting in a bridge game when possible. God bless Lisa and family! I pray that God grants Odessa eternal rest!
May 25, 2020
Odessa will surely be missed. She had a strong presence in our community, and she was a role model for all women of color, both young and old.
Rest in peace, for you have earned your place in that beautiful garden we will all visit some day. You are safe in his arms.
Your "presence" here will live on.
May 22, 2020
I as a young single mom(divorcee) Odessa shared with me the path to pick yourself up, hold your head high, shoulders straight and move forward. When I wanted to fold she said absolutely "NOT" as well as I knew my conversations with her was confidential.