Jack O'Dell

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Jack O'Dell

Hunter Pitts (Jack) O'Dell serves on the Advisory Board of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.

O'Dell and his wife Jane Power live in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Early life

Hunter Pitts O'Dell was born in Detroit, Michigan on August 11, 1924. His father George Edwin O'Dell worked in hotels and restaurants in Detroit and his mother, Emily O'Dell, attended Howard University where she studied music and later taught adults to play classical piano. O'Dell's grandparents played a pivotal role in raising him during the turbulent 1930s and he took his grandfather's nickname, "Jack," as his own in order to pay homage to him. O'Dell's witnessing of racial violence, labor strikes, and social unrest during this period led to his interest in labor and social reform issues.[1]


O'Dell left Michigan after high school to attend Xavier University in 1941 in New Orleans, where he studied pharmacology. He abandoned his studies in order to enlist in the Merchant Marines and fight for the United States in World War II. It was during this period that he became exposed to a variety of progressive and leftist thinkers of American and European origin. He also joined an integrated union (the National Maritime Union) and became involved in a variety of civil rights activities. One of these included organizing hotel and restaurant workers in Florida in 1946.[2]

Communist Party member

In the 1950s, at the height of McCarthyism in the United States, O'Dell's membership in the Communist Party USA led to his expulsion from his union. He remained, however, one of the most energetic and vocal community organizers in the South. He found it difficult to sustain employment because of the number of federal investigations into his political views. O'Dell's work in the South in the 1950s introduced him to nonviolent resistance as a tactic of the civil rights movement.[3]

"Civil Rights"

While involved in planning the 1959 youth march on Washington for integrated schools, O'Dell became acquainted with major civil rights leaders and strategists such as Martin Luther King, A. Philip Randolph, and Stanley Levison. O'Dell joined King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and was particularly active in planning its successful Birmingham campaign in 1963. That involvement, however, allowed opponents to attack movement as "communist" controlled.Recognizing that his continued involvement with King and the Southern civil rights movement would continue to be a distraction and a problem for SCLC, he resigned from the organization late in 1963.[4]

In the 1960s O'Dell became an advisor to Martin Luther King. He was simultaneously serving on the National Committee of the Communist Party USA under the pseudonym of "Cornelius James."[5]


After his resignation from Southern Christian Leadership Conference, O'Dell helped edit Freedomways magazine, a Communist Party USA enterprise "dedicated to black freedom struggles worldwide."

Herbert Aptheker Testimonial Dinner

On April 28, 1966 Jack O'Dell was a sponsor of the Herbert Aptheker Testimonial Dinner. The dinner was held on the occasion of Herbert Aptheker's 50th birthday, the publication of his 20th book, and the 2nd anniversary of the American Institute for Marxist Studies. It was held in the Sutton Ballroom, The New York Hilton, Avenue of the Americas, 53rd to 54th Street, New York City. Most speakers, organizers and sponsors were known members or supporters of the Communist Party USA.[6]

Later activism

Jack O'Dell continued to be a political activist. He spoke out against the Vietnam War, supported Eugene McCarthy in the late 1960s, worked on Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign and was involved in a number of civil rights and community organizing events in New York and other cities across the United States.[7]

Working for Jesse Jackson

A principal advisor to Jackson for more than 20 years was Jack O'Dell. O'Dell assisted Jackson during his campaign for the Presidential nomination. He was International Affairs Director for Jackson's Operation PUSH in Chicago from the early 1960s onwards, and later for Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, where he served into at least the late 1980s.

O'Dell was a also member of the Soviet front World Peace Council. Dee Bates of Jackson's Operation PUSH was a member of the U.S. Peace Council, the America affiliate of this front.[8]

World Peace Council

In the late 1970s, the Information Centre of the Soviet front World Peace Council, Helsinki Finland, published a booklet naming members of the organization, worldwide.[9]

We publish in this booklet a list of members of the World Peace Council elected at the Council's Session in Warsaw in 1977.

U.S. members listed, included; Jack O'Dell, Associate Editor, Freedomways Magazine; International Affairs Director, People United to Save Humanity (PUSH).

War Danger and the Lebanon Crisis conference

On February 11 1984, Noam Chomsky addressed "The War Danger and the Lebanon Crisis-Issues For The US Peace Movement" conference, organized by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, held at the United Methodist Building Conference Rooms, Washington, DC.

Other speakers included Dan Connell, Congressman John Conyers, Neta Crawford, Stephen Green, Robin Madrid, Rev. Paul Mayer, Jack O'Dell, Dr. Seth Tillman, Don Will, Ellen Siegel, and Dr. James Zogby.[10]

Addressed Communist Party USA, front meeting

An ad/notice was placed in the Guardian, November 8, 1989, concerning an upcoming U.S. Peace Council national conference. The text of the notice was:

"End The Cold War Fund Human Needs" U.S. Peace Council's Tenth Anniversary National Conference - Boston, Mass., Nov. 10-12, 1989

Speakers Included:[11]

Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign

In 2012 Jack O'Dell served on the Board of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign.[12]


  1. http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/o-dell-jack-1924
  2. http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/o-dell-jack-1924
  3. http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/o-dell-jack-1924
  4. http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/o-dell-jack-1924
  5. Communists in the Democratic Party, page 40
  6. Dinner Program for the Herbert Aptheke Dinner, April 28, 1966
  7. http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/o-dell-jack-1924
  8. Communists in the Democratic Party, page 40
  9. WORLD PEACE COUNCIL LIST OF MEMBERS 1977-1980, Information Centre of the World Peace Council Lönnrotinkatu 25 A 5 krs 00180 Helsinki 18 Finland
  10. Conference flyer
  11. Guardian, November 8, 1989
  12. Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign website, accessed Dec. 13,2010