Ossie Ware Mitchell

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Ossie Ware Mitchell (born 1919 in Uniontown, Perry County; died March 7, 2004) was an educator and former president of the Birmingham Board of Education.

Mitchell was one of two daughters born to Reverend George Ware and his wife, the former Adelaide Hunt. She grew up in Birmingham and graduated Industrial High School. She completed a bachelor of science at Tuskegee Institute on an academic scholarship. She went on to study at the Gregg College in Chicago, Illinois and the George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, and later earned a master of arts from Alabama State University. She worked as an English instructor and counselor at Minnie Gaston's Booker T. Washington Business College and was promoted to assistant director.

Mitchell was an active member of the Iota Phi Lambda sorority and served a four-year term as its national president from 1962 to 1966. She was a life member and former vice president of the National Council of Negro Women Inc. and served on the board of directors for YWCA Birmingham and on the board of trustees for Daniel Payne College. She was appointed to the National Women's Committee for Civil Rights by President John Kennedy and was invited to participate in a White House conference on civil rights by President Lyndon Johnson. She also served on boards for the United Negro College Fund, the Cahaba Girl Scout Council, the A. G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club, and the Imperial Club.

Mitchell married World War II veteran Chester Mitchell in 1949. He left her a widow in 1960.

Mitchell was one of 11 candidates who applied for the vacant position on the Birmingham Board of Education left by the departure of Mrs Sam Phelps in November 1972. The board, which was appointed then by the Birmingham City Council, had "traditionally" had one female member since 1920. According to councilor E. C. Overton, she was "the most qualified and representative" candidate. She became the second Black member of the board, joining Clyde Kirby, who had been appointed in 1969. When she was appointed, the system's enrollment was 59% Black. She was re-appointed for a full five-year term at the end of her partial term in 1973, and again in 1978 and 1983, during which she served as board president. She was a candidate for re-appointment when that term ended in 1988, but the council decided to replace her with Ornie McAlpin

Mitchell resided in the Brown Springs neighborhood. She helped organize the Birmingham Community Participation Program, and served as its first president of the Brown Springs Neighborhood Association where she was active in lobbying for city services and in helping her neighbors. She was known for driving several neighbor children to Barrett Elementary School, which had been merged with the former East Lake Elementary School during school desegregation. In return for the ride, they helped with small chores or by volunteering at her church, St Paul AME Church.

Mitchell died in March 2004 at Baptist Medical Center Montclair and was interred at Elmwood Cemetery. The newly-constructed Ossie Ware Mitchell Middle School in South East Lake was named in her honor when it opened in 2006.


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