Odessa Woolfolk is known for her work as an educator, public administrator, and civic activist.
Woolfolk was born in the Titusville community of Birmingham, she graduated from the famed A. H. Parker High School then earned a BA in history and political science at Talladega College and an MA in urban studies at Occidental College in California. She later furthered her graduate studies at the University of Chicago and was a National Urban Fellow at Yale University.
After completing her education, Woolfolk began her career as a teacher at Birmingham’s Ullman High School. She later moved into public policy work with the Urban Reinvestment Task Force, Washington, D.C.; New York State Urban Development Corporation, New York City; YWCA, Utica, N.Y.; and Arbor Hill Community Center and Inter-Racial Council, Albany, N.Y.
She returned to Alabama, her hometown, as an executive director of the Birmingham Opportunity Industrialization Center and associate executive director of the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity. For twenty-one years, she served the University of Alabama at Birmingham as director of the Center for Urban Affairs; lecturer in political science and public affairs; staff associate, Center for International Programs; and Assistant to the President for Community Relations.
Woolfolk is recognized as the driving force behind the building of that internationally recognized museum depicting the struggles and victories of the American civil rights movement. Her many other accolades include receiving the UAB Honorary Alumni Award, Outstanding Faculty Award, and President’s Medal. She was honored by the mayor and city council with induction into the Birmingham Gallery of Distinguished Citizens, and she has received honorary doctorates from her alma mater, Talladega College, from the University of the South in Tennessee, and from Birmingham-Southern College.