Who Was Howard W. Odum?

Odum with Bull

Howard Washington Odum was born in 1884 near Bethlehem, Georgia, the son of William Pleasants and Mary Ann Odum. In 1900, he began his academic studies at Emory College, eventually receiving a Ph.D. in psychology from Clark University. He then entered Columbia University, where, under the direction of Franklin Henry Giddings, he completed the requirements for his second doctoral degree in sociology. In 1910, his dissertation, "Social and Mental Traits of the Negro," was published in part by Columbia University Press. Odum then worked at the Philadelphia Bureau of Municipal Research as a researcher and later as a professor at the University of Georgia. He returned to Emory in 1919 as the dean of liberal arts.

In 1920, Odum arrived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to direct the School of Public Welfare and Department of Sociology. A few years after his arrival, Odum established the Institute for Research in Social Science, and founded the journal, Social Forces. While at the University of North Carolina, he began to demonstrate the variety of talents and great energy that his peers found remarkable. Odum toiled constantly to improve race relations, the quality of education, and living conditions in the South. Howard W. Odum served as President of the American Sociological Society in 1930.

Upon his death, Howard Odum's papers were donated to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for preservation. A detailed search feature for the Odum papers is available on-line. The UNC-Chapel Hill archives provides the following biographical summary of Odum's life and work.