Wilmer Cody

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Wilmer St. Clair Cody, Jr.

Louisiana State
Superintendent of Education
In office
Preceded by Thomas Greenwood "Tom" Clausen

Born January 1, 1937
Mobile, Alabama
Died November 8, 2021 (aged 84)
St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana
Resting place Cremation
Political party Democrat[1]
Spouse(s) Caroline Burns Cody (married 1954-2016, her death)
Children David Cody

Alison Cody
Wilmer, Sr., and Elizabeth Annette Halliwell Cody

Alma mater Murphy High School (Mobile)

Harvard University

Occupation Educator
Religion United Methodist

Wilmer St. Clair Cody, Jr. (January 1, 1937 [1] – November 8, 2021), was a state superintendent of education in both Louisiana (1988-1992) as well as Kentucky (1995-1999).


A native of Mobile, Alabama, he graduated from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and held various positions in education for fifty years.


As a classroom teacher and school principal in Mobile, he enrolled a wheelchair-bound young girl in elementary school despite bureaucratic opposition some twenty-five years before passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991, a portion of the United States code which affirms the rights of individuals with disabilities to employment, housing, education, communication, transportation, and other public and private services. He continued to support mainstream education of disabled children throughout his career. After his time in Mobile, he became a local superintendent in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Birmingham, Alabama (1973-1983), and Montgomery County, Maryland. He was a professional educator for fifty years.[2]

As the superintendent in Birmingham, he enrolled his two children at schools in which bloody race riots had occurred only a few months earlier. He devised and implemented a plan that eventually settled a civil rights case dating from 1960. The plan kept the peace, avoided forced school busing, and allowed more and more children to attend school with others of different races. The federal judge who ultimately released the school board from the consent decree said that "this desegregation was the best job that has been done in the country." Cody and the police chief also brokered a deal with local gangs that kept violent turf wars away from the school buildings. In the midst of all of this, Cody persuaded the voters of Birmingham to approve a substantial property tax increase that funded the accreditation of elementary schools for the first time ever.[2]

As the Louisiana state superintendent, he pushed successfully for performance standards throughout K-12 education. He was a program officer in the earliest days of the National Institute of Education and a longtime board member at the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Despite spirited opposition, he pushed for competency testing for public school teachers. Then Governor Buddy Roemer referred to Cody as "a brave man."[2]

Personal life

Cody was married for fifty-eight years to the former Caroline Burns (1937-2016), who was born near Cullman, Alabama, the daughter of the Mobile County superintendent of education whom he met at Murphy High School in Mobile. She attended Boston College, which her husband was at nearby Harvard.[3] The Codys received death threats because they supported school desegregation at a time when most white voters in Alabama were segregationists.[2] At various times, Cody piloted a small plane, sailed on Chesapeake Bay, Mobile Bay, and Lake Pontchartrain, and built or rebuilt several wooden boats. A fisherman and hunter, he was a connoisseur of oysters.[2]

He spent his retirement years in Dauphin Island near Mobile. He died in Covington in St. Tammany Parish in suburban New Orleans. He was survived by his children, David Cody (wife Sara Orton) and Alison Cody. He was cremated.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wilmer Cody (S), 85 - Dauphin Island, AL Public Reputation Profile at MyLife.com™
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Wilmer St. Clair Cody Jr. (1937-2021) - Find a Grave Memorial, accessed April 21, 2022.
  3. Dr Caroline Burns Cody (1937-2016) - Find a Grave Memorial, accessed April 21, 2022.