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Larutha Odom Clay was born June 25, 1926 to A.T. and Addie Odom in the Historic Community of Shankleville, in Newton County, TX. She met Matthew Honer Clay, Sr., of Beaumont, while both were students at Prairie View A&M University; and they were married in 1950, at Mount Hope Baptist Church in Shankleville. To this union they had four children: Mathia, Tracey, Lareatha and Matthew Jr.
Mrs. Clay served for more than 36 years as a teacher of English, speech, debate, drama and journalism at Lincoln High School in Port Arthur, TX, and at Hebert, Forest Park and Westbrook High Schools in Beaumont. Beyond the classroom, she helped the children of former students to improve their writing skills, and conducted symposia, seminars, workshops and demonstrations via church and civic organizations to improve speaking and writing skills. Mrs. Clay also was known throughout the area and the state as a dynamic motivational and spiritual speaker.
An advocate of civic and spiritual engagement, Mrs. Clay was a Life Member of the NAACP, as well as a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, and the Order of the Eastern Star. In 2003, Mrs. Clay became the first black women to be inducted into the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, whose applicants must prove they are direct descendants of people who helped establish the Republic of Texas. And as a founding member and secretary/treasurer of the Shankleville Historical Society, Inc., Mrs. Clay helped to drive the Society’s 20-plus-years scholarship program for college-bound students.
For her accomplishments and service, Mrs. Clay was honored as Outstanding Teacher at both Hebert and Forest Park High Schools; “Daughter of Shankleville” from the Shankleville Historical Society; “Mother of the Year” for her achievements and those of her four children: and “Outstanding Leader” for her work as an advisor to the Lamar University Chapter of the national Society of Black Engineers. She was inducted into the Starlight Missionary Baptist Church’s “Wall of Honor” in March.