Jennie Lou Mattox: Athens’ Housing Advocate and Volunteer
Written by our friends at Athens Heritage Room.
Prior to closing the library building back in March 2020, the Heritage Room received the start of a new collection focused on the life of community activist and volunteer Jennie Lou Mattox (1935-2015). While processing this collection, I began to dive into the life of Ms. Mattox and all of the organizational work that she did for the Athens area over her life. Broadly involved in volunteer work and activism across the area, Ms. Mattox focused primarily on issues of housing in Athens. In a time when it is increasingly clear that we must help our neighbors, Ms. Mattox’s legacy of community outreach is a model from which we can all learn. Through this post, I’ll be focusing on a few of the outreach programs that Ms. Mattox was involved with over the years.
The Inter-Community Council (ICC) and Athens Housing Authority
Founded in 1973, the Inter-Community Council is a nonprofit organization that serves as a representative body for all residents living with the Athens Housing Authority and seeks to prepare residents and families for the world. They comprise resident leaders from each AHA community and address residents’ concerns and other social service issues. The Council also provides services like job skills training and educational opportunities (Athens ICC Facebook).
Mattox was a member of the ICC from 1999 until her death in 2015, and served as board president for a decade (from 2004 to 2014). She received the ICC Leadership Award for Outstanding Community Service from 2009-2015 as well. In her memorial included in the AHA June 2015 newsletter, Mattox is remembered with joy for her enthusiasm for racing money for ICC and her constancy in the lives of everyone at AHA. Mattox’s work with the Parkview Community Center from 1974 to 1992 was also recognized by the AHA.
Her advocacy and presence led to the renaming of the community resource center that houses the ICC to the Cameron-Mattox Resource Center to honor the contributions Mattox made to the community.
Mattox was also elected to the Athens Housing Authority Board of Commissioners as a Resident Representative, furthering her advocacy for her neighbors. She served on the board from 2011 to 2015. For her service, the Georgia Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authority awarded her their Recognition Award for Selfless and Dedicated Service in 2013.
St. Paul CME Church
Ms. Mattox was also an active member of St. Paul CME Church located in the heart of Athens-Clarke County. She was an active member of the church choir, receiving an Outstanding Leadership award for her time as Choir President from 1988-1990. She also extended her compassion and leadership to the children of the church as a volunteer with St. Paul CME’s Vacation Bible School. On top of all of these achievements, she also received a CME Church 6th Episcopal District Christian Training Award in 2014.
Clearly, Jennie Lou Mattox was loved by the Athens community. Her relentless volunteer work aided her community and made her beloved by many. Beyond the work mentioned above, Mattox also volunteered with the Morton Theatre, the Parkview Recreation Center, and other community organizations. For this work, former Athens Mayor Gwen O’Looney presented Mattox with a Key to the City in 1992, commemorating the years of dedicated service Mattox provided to the citizens of Athens-Clarke County from 1974-1992.
Ms. Mattox passed away in 2015, but her legacy lives on through the work that she completed in the community. She was also honored by the renaming of the 200 block of S. Franklin Street as Jennie L. Mattox Street. Mattox’s family originally pushed for the section of Flint St. occupied by St. Paul’s CME to be renamed, but later picked S. Franklin Street because of resident concerns on Flint St. The proposal for renaming was successful in early 2019 and the block was renamed after a ceremony held at Clarke Central High School in March.
Mattox’s contributions to the Athens-Clarke County community are commemorated not only by awards and renamed streets, but also by how she’s remembered by the countless folks who worked with her while volunteering and were aided by her work. While the Jennie Lou Mattox collection is brand new here in the archives, we do also have resources related to housing in Athens, Community Centers here in Athens, and the Morton Theatre.