[By Rob Roehm. Originally posted August 16, 2011, at the now-defunct REH: Two-Gun Raconteur blog. This version lightly edited.]
Readers of School Days in the Post Oaks may recognize Edith Odom as the salutatorian of Cross Plains High School’s class of 1922, the same class that Robert E. Howard graduated with. There were only ten members of the class, so I did a little research to see what I could find out about them. There’s not a lot of information for most, but Odom is an exception.
Born Edith Jewel Odom, possibly on October 9, 1906, she spent most of her early life in Callahan County with her parents, Simeon Edward and Julia Velma. Both the 1910 and 1920 Census records list her father as a farmer. In 1922 she graduated second in her class (Howard’s friend Winfred Brigner was first), but missed the graduation ceremony, which had been delayed due to bad weather. The Cross Plains Review reported that she was “unable to reach town in time for the exercises.”
Like Robert E. Howard, Odom went to another high school to pick up the extra year of schooling necessary for college attendance. She moved to Clyde, Texas, at the opposite side of Callahan County, and attended her senior year in Abilene. After graduating in the spring of 1923, she enrolled at McMurry College in the fall (along with REH’s friend from Cross Cut, Austin Newton). By December of that year, she was already making a name for herself on campus. She was elected secretary of the French Club and chosen as “Class Beauty.” The school’s newspaper, The War Whoop, described her as “not only physically beautiful, but is well-rounded, radiating a charming personality. It might easily be said, ‘To know her is to love her.’”
Her “Class Beauty” status was elevated in 1925, when she was chosen as the yearbook’s “Most Popular Girl.” The quote next to her photo (at the top of this post) might explain her popularity: “My ambition, as you know, is to make men happy and keep them so.” Another factor in her popularity was her membership in the McMurry Girls’ Quartet. The group performed at many local functions and private parties. The Abilene Morning News, April 23, 1927, under the headline “Business Men’s Bible Class Has Quarterly Feed,” reported the following:
[. . .] Other entertainment for the evening was given by students of the Fine Arts Department of McMurry College. The girl’s quartet composed of Carolyn McNeely, Irene Meador, Edith Odom and Beulah Tracy gave a group of numbers.
Odom was queen of the “McMurry Fete” and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1927. Beneath her senior picture in the yearbook, we learn that “Yes, she is going to teach school—for a while,” as well as the following:
Edith is everybody’s friend, and when she goes away McMurry will have lost a great little joy spreader, and the world will have gained through McMurry’s loss.
After visiting relatives at Big Spring that summer, Odom started teaching at Denton, just south of Clyde. The 1930 Census has her living in Callahan County, with her parents. The War Whoop gave its students an update on their popular alumnus in its May 16, 1930 edition:
Edith Odom, B. A. 1927. Edith is still spanking youngsters at her home in the hinterland near Clyde. She is hard pressed for time to teach by stove sellers, hardware peddlers, school teachers, farmers and highway inspectors. The “Queen” is still as friendly as ever.
As the summer ended, Odom changed locations and was up in Miami, Texas, in the panhandle, teaching school for the 1930-31 school year. The next summer she was married:
(Pampa Daily News – Aug. 31, 1931)
MIAMI, Aug. 31. — (Special) —A marriage of much interest in this community was solemnized recently at Abilene when Miss Edith Odom became the bride of Bill O’Loughlin of this city. The bride is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S. E. Odom of Clyde, and was a teacher in the public schools here last year. The groom is a son of Mr. and Mrs. M. W. O’Loughlin of Miami.
After her marriage, Mrs. Bill O’Loughlin shows up pretty regularly in the Pampa Daily News’ “Society Page” as a member of a bridge club and president of the Junior Home Progress club. The February 16, 1940 War Whoop reported some sad news:
ABOUT OUR EXES
[. . .] They also told us of the recent death of Edith Odom’s father. Edith, as many of you know, is Mrs. Bill O’Loughlin of Miami and has a two-year old daughter, Ann.
Odom also had at least one other child, a son, whom the Pampa Daily News reported on May 27, 1955, won the American Legion Award and was valedictorian of his 8th grade class. And that’s where the record ends. Odom died on July 19, 1969 in Pampa, Gray Co., Texas; she is buried in Miami Cemetery, Miami, Texas.