Odelia Wesley

In 1946, Odelia Wesley began teaching first grade at Lawhead Elementary School and in 1951 , she moved to Washington Elementary School. She was named Principal of Washington Elementary in 1954. Ms. Wesley served on the Board of Directors of the Frances Nelson Health Center; was recognized by the Delta Sigma Theta sorority for her literacy work; and was recognized by Parkland College for her outstanding services to the Program for the Long Living. In 1970, Wesley Park in Champaign was dedicated in her honor.

Odelia Wesley, nee Helm, was born at Belleville Illinois on June 24, 1906. Her mother, a teacher, was born at Clarksville, Tennessee in 1879 (died. 1921). Her father, a factory worker, was born at Clarksville in 1875 (died 1962). She was married to Lincoln Wesley (1900-1981). She moved to Champaign in 1939. She received a teaching certificate from Southern IIlmois University and a B.S. and M.A. from the University of Illinois. Between 1928 and 1946 she worked as a teacher in Mt. Vernon, Illinois; as a Recreation Director in Champaign; and as a civilian instructor for the Air Force. She then taught first grade in Champaign from 1946 to 1951 and served as Principal of Washington Elementary School in Champaign from 1951 to 1972. She belonged to St. Luke CME Church, where she taught Sunday School. Her affiliations included the AAUW, Kappa Gamma Society, Frances Nelson Health Center Advisory Board; Cooperative Extension Advisory Board; Champaign Public Library, YWCA, United Fund, Children's Home and Aid Society, and the Welfare Service Committee. Her many honors include a fellowship fund created n her name and the naming of a city park after her in Champaign

Odelia Wesley, 1983, Source: Raymond Bial's In All My Years: Portraits of Older Blacks In Champaign-Urbana, Champaign County Historical Museum, 1983.

Sources: Through the Years: African-American History in Champaign County, Fall 2002/Winter 2003

The Black Women in the Middle West Project: A Comprehensive Resource Guide, Illinois and Indiana: Historical Essays, Oral Histories, Biographical Profiles and Document Collections