Last week, colleagues and loved ones paid their final respects to the late Ann Odom, an influential Amory attorney for those in the legal field who passed away Aug. 26 at age 69.
Outside of her professional capacity, the Wren resident is remembered as someone who not only loved living life to the fullest but as an actress who could perform well on stage.
Odom, a former Memphis social worker who began practicing law in Amory in 1976, left an impression on those she knew closely.
“She was very proud of the fact she was a female attorney,” said her former legal assistant Kim Fears. “She really set the bar as far as being a role model for other females to be attorneys. She paved the way for them.
“I started to work for her and asked her if I needed to go back to school, and she said she’d teach me everything I needed to know. She took me under her wing, and I’m still in the business 30 years later.”
Those who knew Odom well noted her level of politeness and professionalism towards clients and said she could talk at anyone’s level in carrying on conversations.
“She was the guardian ad litem for Monroe County so when children were taken from their homes, she was assigned as their attorney. She championed for these children. She was their voice. There are people walking around here now because of her,” said Donna King, who sparked a friendship with her in 1995 and began working for her in 2006.
Fears said Odom once had the nickname as the Child Support Queen.
“The most memorable thing about her practice was a determination of heirs case. It ended up being 150 heirs to one woman. I remember the chancery court was full. There were people there I knew who I didn’t even know were related to each other,” said Monroe County Chancery Clerk Ronnie Boozer. “That’s the largest determination of heirs case I can ever remember.”
Most of Odom’s cases were held in chancery court. For years, she also handled mental health-related commitments for the county.
“With commitments, I think she could handle them in a way descent enough to where it wasn’t more embarrassing to the families than it was. I think, personally, she was great with her clients,” Boozer said. “I’m thrilled I got to know her over the years. Certainly, she’s been missed from her practice as far as chancery is concerned.”
Outside of the practice
Aside from her attorney role, Odom previously served on the Amory School Board and also on the Mississippi Board of Education. She was a strong champion for juvenile diabetes as well.
Another attribute she’ll be remembered by is her acting skills. She portrayed Truvy in a local production of “Steel Magnolias” and Big Momma in a Tupelo Community Theatre production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Fears added Odom almost interviewed for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” when Regis Philbin was the game show’s host.
“Ann was certainly one of the most passionate people about the arts,” said Tupelo Community Theatre Director Tom Booth, who met her through the Amory Community Theatre. “Almost everything in life is acting. It certainly takes a level of performing to be a pastor, a teacher or an attorney. Theatre is a great uniter of the people. That was the force that brought us together.”
He said she was a driving force for the Amory Community Theatre in its day both on stage and behind the scenes.
Odom was an extra in 1993’s film adaptation of John Grisham’s bestseller “The Firm,” which was filmed in Memphis.
“She got the word they needed extras. She tried out to be an extra and had them in the palm of her hand. She was actually supposed to be Tom Cruise’s secretary, but people got involved and some SAG [Screen Actors Guild] card-carrying actress got the role and she was just an extra,” King said.
After filming wrapped, Odom won a lamp used as a prop on Cruise’s desk in an auction.
“Wherever she went, she took the party with her. She wanted to cram as much life in as she could. Her biggest influence on me was to live and have fun because your days are short and to put positive energy into the world,” King said.