From the very beginning, his mother knew there was something special about this child. She named him “Oddie” because she had the notion that he was going to be unique, and that he was. The grandson of slaves, Oddie brought a revolution to black education in Ashe County. In 1933 there were seven one-room black schools in the county and Oddie went about the business of consolidating them. A decade or so later Oddie accomplished his goal and was principal of the Bristol School for Negroes with three teachers on staff.
Oddie was not just a hero to the black community. He had a special place for children from broken homes…enter Sam Shumate. Oddie took the kids on outings and his love for learning and innate curiosity rubbed off. He posed to Sam the question, I wonder where all these roads go? Sam mentioned that this one goes to Boone, this one to Mountain City, Tennessee, but while unfolding a map, Oddie said, but look, these roads lead to other roads! As Sam wasn’t ready for college after high school Oddie suggested the Air Force and off he went.
When Shumate did get to college, he submitted a piece he wrote to Reader’s Digest feature entitled Unforgettable Characters. Reader’s Digest awarded Sam $2,400 for the story and Oddie’s inspirational story was spread nationwide. In a roundabout way, Oddie put Shumate through college after all!
Beginning at age 56, Oddie had begun spending the summers at Greensboro A&T taking college courses. What motivated him in the selection of courses was not a degree, even though he didn’t have one, but rather he was motivated by what would most benefit his students as he worked with them in the classroom back in Ashe County.
He did this for 23 straight summers! The summer of his 23rd year at A&T the president of the college decided that Oddie should receive a degree based on his accomplishments. Given the preference Cox wanted to wait until the following May at the formal commencement ceremonies…but he never made it. Cox died tragically in a house fire before he could walk across that stage.
According to Shumate, he had to park over a half mile from the funeral service because all of Oddie’s kids had come home from all over the country to pay their final respects to this ideal student and teacher, this slight and small man who had a massive impact on all those around him. Oddie Cox was larger than life.
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