Vernon Odom, a Broadcast Pioneer

Vernon Odom
Official "Action News" Publicity Photo

With WPVI-TV’s Action News for over a quarter of a century, Vernon Odom is a news reporter for Channel 6 and also is host of the station’s weekly Public Affairs program, “Visions,” telecast on Saturday evenings.

While working for Channel 6, Odom has covered every major story of our time in the Delaware Valley region, plus all the Presidential campaigns dating back to 1976; Ford versus Carter including their debate that fall at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theater. He has covered every presidential inauguration since coming to Philadelphia plus all the Pennsylvania gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races plus the city's mayoral races.

Vernon Odom covered the deadly MOVE confrontations in '78 and '85 and the investigative hearings. He also reported the stories about the Three-Mile Island disaster, the FBI abscam probe and the trials of the local politicians who got caught in the web, plus he was on the scene in the 80s covering the Philadelphia Mafia wars.

Vernon has hosted many specials including one with Gary Papa in 1985, Live Aid: The Philadelphia Story. It included live interviews with the performers and Philadelphia’s mayor, W. Wilson Goode. You’ll recall that the Live Aid concert was held right here in the Quaker City.

In 1986, Jim Gardner and Vernon Odom hosted, “Philadelphia After Move, A Closer Look.” The program examined the impact on Philadelphia of the May 13, 1985 confrontation between MOVE members and city police officials.

Vernon Odom has reported from around the globe including Africa, Latin America and Europe including the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the unbanning of the African National Congress. Odom then returned to South Africa for the first free, all-race, democratic elections in the former land of Apartheid.

He covered the U.S. invasion of Somalia in 1992. Odom reported from the old Soviet Union in '86, from the Baltic state of Latvia to the ancient city then known as Leningrad, now St. Petersburg to Moscow. Wherever the action was, Vernon Odom was there.

It was in 1985 that he reported from civil war torn El Salvador. From Washington, Odom has reported for WPVI-TV on stories including "the x-rated Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings to the double x-rated impeachment of President Clinton." From across the Uniteds States, Odom covered the Atlanta child murders in the early 80's, the Los Angeles riot of the early 90's and the trial of O.J. Simpson.

Born on September 16, 1948, Odom was graduated from Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Political Science. It was there that he got into broadcasting. In addition to being a radio disc jockey, his lifelong interest in contemporary issues like civil rights led him into the news side of broadcasting.

He started out covering the news in racially tense Georgia in 1967. From rural Georgia and Alabama to the big cities like Atlanta and Birmingham, Vernon Odom reported the events. The first huge, huge story for him was the reaction to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King, of course, lived in Atlanta, just a few blocks from the Morehouse campus. Odom got a brief audio taped interview with Coretta Scott King moments after she learned her husband had been shot in Memphis and before she learned of his death. Riots insued that night in Atlanta and for days thereafter. Vernon dispatched reports to radio networks around the country. He also covered King's funeral procession through Atlanta and the ceremony itself on the Morehouse campus.

Odom later went on to the prestigious Columbia University with graduate studies in Broadcast Journalism.

Vernon came to Philly in 1976 from WXIA-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. WXIA was the ABC-TV affiliate there. At the station, he was a reporter, anchorman and talk show host. Odom covered among other major stories, the early political careers of Jimmy Carter, Andrew Young, Julian Bond and Maynard Jackson, Atlanta's first black mayor in addition to the assassination of Dr. King's mother.

A long-time favorite of Philadelphians, Vernon Odom is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and its Philadelphia chapter. Vernon’s sister, Maida Odom, is Director of Internship Program Journalism at Temple University where she also teaches courses. She was a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer for more than 20 years.

Odom’s dad, Vernon Odom, Sr., was a civil rights activist. In the 1960s, the elder Odom worked to desegregate Akron, Ohio’s police and fire departments. Vernon, Sr. was Executive Director of the Akron Urban League from 1964 until his retirement in 1992. Odom's father was a master sargeant during the Second World War, the highest rank blacks were allowed to have in the U.S. military at that juncture in history. He was a career social work executive and community leader. In addition to his Urban League duties, he taught at Akron State University and served in various civic positions including as chairman of the city's mass transit authority board.

Odom’s mother Sadie received her high school diploma at 15 and was graduated (at the age of 19) cum laude from Morris Brown College in Atlanta, her hometown. She was a biologist and college professor who worked in Hampton, Virginia, during World War II where she was involved in research and development for the Manhattan Project, the atomic bomb.

Vernon Odom is married to former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Wanda Motley. They have 2 children, Corinne and Vernon Lane, the Third. Odoms sister,

Odom's family legacy in journalism dates back to the 19th century. His maternal great grandfather, B.T. Harvey, Sr. was the second African-American to publish a daily newspaper in the United States. The publication began in 1887 in Columbus, Georgia (the Columbus Messenger). The newspaper building was burned to the ground and the printing presses destroyed in reaction to the publisher's anti-lynching editorials but it didn't stop Vernon's ancestors from reporting the truth.

When not working, he enjoys reading and writing. Sports wise, his favorites are basketball and swimming, both as a participant and a spectator. On Friday, November 19, 2004, Vernon Odom was inducted into our "Hall of Fame."

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
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