Ethma Odum

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Ethma Elaine Ewing Odum

(Central Louisiana television host)

Ethma Odum.png

Born June 23, 1931
Alexandria, Louisiana, USA
Died March 22, 2009 (aged 77)
Alexandria, Louisiana
Spouse Billy Joe Odum

Ethma Alice Budda Odum-McCullin
Two grandchildren
Charles Earl, Sr., and Fannie Griffin Ewing

Religion United Methodist

Ethma Elaine Ewing Odum (June 23, 1931 – March 22, 2009) was a television host of her own The Ethma Odum Show, a half-hour program geared to homemakers which was broadcast for more than twenty years during the 1960s and 1970s on KALB-TV, the NBC affiliate in her native Alexandria, Louisiana. KALB directly services ten parishes in Central Louisiana.

Broadcasting career

Little is known of her upbringing but Ethma Ewing was the only daughter amid four sons of an Alexandria couple, Charles Earl Ewing, Sr., and the former Fannie Griffin. At the age of twenty-nine, she got onto the ground floor of the burgeoning television market and with her enthusiastic personality was soon hosting her own program for KALB, which opened in 1954 in downtown Alexandria. Odum joined KALB on October 9, 1960,[1] and she remained with the station for forty-two years, more than twenty of those as host of The Ethma Odum Show.[2]

Her live broadcast was geared toward the female audience and aired on weekdays, first at 3 p.m., then 12:30 p.m., and then at 11:30 a.m. At times political figures were her guests, such as the colorful mayor of Alexandria, John K. Snyder, the state Commissioner of Agriculture Dave L. Pearce, Lieutenant Governor Paul Hardy, or the U.S. Representatives Speedy Long, Gillis Long, and Catherine Small "Cathy" Long (1924-2019). She interviewed Louisiana Tech University President F. Jay Taylor, the football star Charlie Hennigan (1935-2017), and actors James Drury (1934-2020) and Doug McClure (1935-1995), both stars of the NBC western series, The Virginian; Michael Landon (1936-1991) of Little House on the Prairie, and Fess Parker (1924-2010) of the Daniel Boone series, all guests through the Louisiana Pecan Festival in nearby Colfax in Grant Parish.[3]

Odum carried segments on the Louisiana National Guard and the roots of the Methodist Church in Central Louisiana. She often invited local singing groups to perform on the show. Her annual "Letters to Santa" program and her poignant reading of The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell (1900-1972), were particularly popular. Various episodes had Odum milking a cow, visiting a shooting range, or interviewing a clown. She interviewed a local theater group presenting The King and I.[3] Mainly, however, Odum geared the program to the homemaker. On closing each broadcast, she urged her viewers to obtain vital cancer screenings. Widely recognized from her lifetime of broadcasting, Odum retired from the station in 2002.[2] Odum also produced various "Special Report" programs for KALB nightly news.[2]

Odum's broadcasting awards were voluminous:

  • McCall's magazine, Women in Radio and TV Golden Mike Award
  • Southern Baptist Convention Radio and Television Commission in Fort Worth, Texas, the Abe Lincoln Award for Distinguished Broadcasters[4]
  • American Cancer Society, Cancer Awareness Award
  • Louisiana Medical Society, Excellence for Promoting Cholesterol Screening
  • Daughters of the American Revolution, Award of Excellence in 1992 and 2001
  • YMCA, Spirit of Giving Award
  • Alexandria Bar Association, Liberty Bell Award
  • Louisiana Association of Educators, Award for Excellence
  • CENLA's Best, Inc., Black Heritage Award for Community Outreach.[2]

Green Thumb, Inc., an organization which Odum had featured on one of her program, named her "Outstanding Older Worker for the State of Louisiana" in 2000, when at the age of sixty-nine she received national recognition with an appearance on CNN and before the United States Senate as the guest of then Senator John Breaux of Louisiana. Odum said, "I believe that there's many people out there that could work if they would just find some niche for themselves."[1]

U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, whom Odum once had as a guest on her program,[3] named her as one of fifty women in the United States to serve a three-year term on the "Difference Advisory Committee on Women in the Services," an oddly-named group which investigated the since burgeoning role of women in the military.[2]

In 1972, Odum was named "Sustainer of the Year" by the Junior League, of which she was a long-term member. She was also affiliated with the Alexandria Garden Club and served as a past president of the foundation board of the since four-year Louisiana State University at Alexandria.[2]

Personal life

Odum was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Alexandria, where she taught Sunday school for more than a half-century. For thirty-three years, she also provided private tutoring services for Alexandria students.[2]

Odum was married to Billy Joe Odum (1927-2011), a native of Mansfield in DeSoto Parish and a veteran of the United States Navy in World War II who worked for state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Pearce.[5] The couple had one daughter, Ethma Alice Budda Odum-McCullin (born March 1958), a homebound teacher for J. B. Lafargue Special Education Center in Alexandria. Budda is married to the Reverend William Walter "Bill" McCullin (born March 1962), the interim pastor of Mowata Baptist Church in Eunice[6] He formerly was the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Vidalia in Concordia Parish. A fifth-generation pastor, he is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is active in prison ministries. He preached his mother-in-law's funeral on March 24, 2009.[2]

Odum had two grandchildren, Alice Elaine McCullin Harper (born December 1988) and Brian Hal McCullin (born June 1992), partly named for his paternal uncle. Hal McCullin was deployed with the United States Marine Corps to Afghanistan in 2012.[7]

Bill McCullin is the Three of Odum's brothers, Charles E. Ewing, Jr., Troy Brandon Ewing, and Harry Griffin Ewing, preceded her in death.[2] Only Jack Allen Ewing, Sr. (1924-2012), who owned a sheet metal and roofing company in Alexandria, survived her.[8] Billy and Ethma Odum are interred at Alexandria Memorial Gardens.[5]

Upon Odum's death, the Louisiana House of Representatives in a resolution of condolences, said that her passing created "a tremendous void in her community, her memory shall live forever in the minds and hearts of all who knew and loved her."[9] The Ethma Odum Collection is located in the archives of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "What are the Benefits of Avoiding Retirement", October 4, 2000. Retrieved on August 12, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Ethma Ewing Odum. Alexandria Town Talk (March 22, 2009). Retrieved on June 2, 2014; obituary no longer accessible on-line.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Ethma Odum Collection. Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Retrieved on June 2, 2014; archives no longer accessible on-line.
  4. Abe Lincoln Awards. Retrieved on June 2, 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Billy J. Odum. Retrieved on August 11, 2020.
  6. Mowata Baptist Church. Retrieved on August 11, 2020.
  7. PERCEPTIONS, Rev. Bill McCullin, Senior Pastor. Retrieved on August 12, 2020.
  8. Jack Allen Ewing, Sr.. Retrieved on August 11, 2020.
  9. A Resolution to express the condolences of the House of Representatives upon the death of Ethma Odum of Alexandria, March 2009.