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County Evicts 83-Year-Old Woman From Jailhouse Apartment

December 9, 1985

ROBBINSVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ At 83, Dessie Odom is being evicted from the only home she has known for 23 years - the Graham County jailhouse.

Mrs. Odom, who was jailer, cook and mother figure to hundreds of county prisoners since 1962, was notified Friday she must move out of her three-room apartment in the basement of the now-closed jail by Dec. 15.

″I’ve never harmed anybody in my life,″ Mrs. Odom said after receiving her eviction notice. ″Why they want to put me out of here, I don’t know.″

The county commissioners voted 2-1 last month to evict Mrs. Odom for economic reasons. Her nephew was the only commissioner voting against the move.

The jail was closed Nov. 1, and county prisoners are housed elsewhere. Commissioner Roy Brooms, who is also the county manager, said the county needs the space in the abandoned jail for offices, especially since the county now rents some office space.

Although he voted for the eviction, Brooms said Mrs. Odom ″did a wonderful job. She’s one of the finest ladies I’ve ever seen.″

Mrs. Odom and her husband, who died in 1964, moved into the jailhouse apartment in 1962 and took over management of the jail. Since then, until the jail closed, she served as jailer, custodian, cook, laundress and dispatcher for the sheriff’s department.

The apartment was part of Mrs. Odom’s pay. She bought the food, and was paid per prisoner per day.

Law enforcement officials say she has had a hand in turning some inmates away from a life of crime.

″She’s been a definite influence and mother to many of the inmates,″ said Sheriff A.J. Peterson, who said he wanted her to stay. ″Her good nature and guidance helped lots of people.″

Mrs. Odom said family members have offered to take her in, but she doesn’t want to leave her apartment, which is jammed with family mementos and decorated for the holidays.

Until a stroke in April and a bout with diabetes that kept her hospitalized for several months, Mrs. Odom said, she had never been away from the jail for any significant length of time.

″I’ve stayed right here,″ she said. ″I see my children at Christmas and on the Fourth of July.″

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