September 1, 1926 – January 23, 2019
“If I can help somebody, as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody, with a word or song, if I can show somebody he is traveling wrong, then my living shall not be in vain. If I can do my duty, as a Christian ought, if I can bring back beauty in a world of wrought, if I can spread love’s message, as the Master taught, then my living shall not be in vain.” – Lyrics from a song often sang by Mrs. Hayes as a testimony for the life she lived.
Odie Mae Sweezer Hayes was the eighth child born to William and Emma Sweezer September 1, 1926. Transitioning before her was her husband, Emmitt Hayes Sr., the love of her life and a former principal of Jim Hill High School.
Her siblings also preceding her in transition, were Ida Belle, Jessie (Jack), Rosie, Willie Mae, Frankie, William Penn and Emma. They were all born and reared in Utica, MS. They all attended Cayuga School and were much-loved people of faith who strove to improve their condition.
“Lil’ Odie Mae” saw each of her older sisters leave home seeking their fortunes as she wanted to as well. In 1940 she had gone as far as she could at Cayuga School. One day she decided that she would write a letter to her mother, explaining that she wanted to go to school but would need to leave home to do so. Her mother consented and asked her cousins who lived in Jackson, to let Odie live with them, so she could attend school. She attended Lanier School in the Jackson Colored School System.
While living in Jackson she met Emmitt Hayes Sr. a good looking man who was persistent in pursuing her. He out-finessed the competition for the beautiful Odie Mae, and married her. Their union produced six children Carolyn, Paulette, Gwendolyn, Jacquelyn, Emmitt Jr. and Kelvin.
Mrs. Hayes stayed home to raise her children and started her own business, “Odie’s Beauty Nook.” As a testament of her commitment and love for all children, when little girls in the neighborhood wanted professional hair care, she would only charge them twenty-five cents and if they did not have a quarter, she didn’t charge them anything.
Not stopping there, in 1959 she enrolled in Jackson State College and graduated in 1963, the same year her oldest daughter Carolyn graduated from high school. Mrs. Hayes taught elementary school, as she clearly had a talent for managing children. She reared her six children, “fixed hair,” went to college and graduated – all between 1945 and 1963. Her desire was to work with younger children in order to help them cultivate a passion for learning. She taught at both McLeod Elementary School and Walton Elementary School. Mrs. Hayes retired from Jackson Public Schools in 1989.
She was a lifelong member of College Hill Baptist Church where she served as a deaconess, sang in the gospel choir for many years, served as vice president of her mission circle and served on various planning committees. She knew without a doubt, that her pastor and church members loved her. She attended church up until her transition and they showed her each Sunday how much they cared for her.
She was a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Jack and Jill of America and a member of the Jackson Metro Retired Teachers Chorale. Having the voice of an angel, she often sang solos at various events. In 2005, she was chosen ‘Woman of the Year’ at College Hill and in 2006, the Jackson Chapter of the National Congress of Negro Women honored her with the Mary McLeod Bethune award for community service. Mrs. Hayes never sought awards or recognition. Like the solo she often sang at church, “If I can Help Somebody,” she just wanted to “help somebody” as she traveled along.
In 1990, she and her siblings sought to organize a family reunion where she served as the host of the first Brooks-Miller-Sweezer Family Reunion, a tradition that continues until this day.
Leaving to cherish the life, the love and legacy of Deaconess Odie Sweezer Hayes, are six children: Carolyn (Cleophus) Amerson, Paulette (Roy) Patton, Gwendolyn (Leon) Williams, Jacquelyn Hampton, special son-in-law, James Hampton Jr., Emmitt Jr. (Wanda) Hayes, and Kelvin (Therese) Hayes; grandchildren: Cleophus III (Joy) Amerson, Kendal Amerson, Jarret (Damary) Patton, Jamila (Jamahl) Anderson, Angel Hampton, Carla Williams, James Hampton III, Emmitt Hayes III, and Adrian Hayes; great grandchildren: Kendrick Amerson, Maryana Patton, Jarret Patton II, Joven Patton, Chloe Amerson, Micah Anderson and Grayson Anderson; great-great grandchildren: Kendrick Amerson II and Ashton Nesbitt; nephews Edward Thompson, Melvin Robinson; great nephew Roderick (Linda) Robinson; god-granddaughters Morgan and Mya Bridgeman; and a host of other nephews, nieces, cousins, the Brooks, Miller Sweezer families and friends.
Homegoing services will be held at New Hope Baptist Church, 5202 Watkins Drive, Jackson, Saturday, February 2 at 11 a.m. Arrangements are entrusted to Westhaven Memorial Funeral Home, 3580 Robinson Street, Jackson. Visitation will be all day Friday at Westhaven and Saturday from 10 a.m.-11 a.m. at New Hope Baptist Church.
See family photos page 20.