Former NC Senator Thomas LaFontine “Fountain” Odom

By on November 30, 2023

November 28, 2023

Former NC Senator Thomas LaFontine “Fountain” Odom, 85, passed away peacefully on November 28, 2023, after a lengthy illness. Fountain’s love for life, boundless energy, and commitment to public service were an inspiration to his family and friends.

A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, December 9, 2023, at 1:30pm at Steele Creek Presbyterian Church at Pleasant Hill, 15000 York Road, Charlotte, NC 28278. Following the service, the family will receive friends in the church fellowship hall.

This “uncommon, common man” wore many hats during his lifetime including beloved family man, respected North Carolina statesman, attorney-at-law, environmentalist, businessman, philanthropist, visionary, musical composer, aviator, apiarist, world traveler, freemason, master rose gardener, Christmas tree farmer, wood worker, baseball coach, and harmonica player, just to name a few.

Humble beginnings laid the foundation and motivation for his success. The son of sharecroppers from south Georgia, Thomas Quitman “T.Q” Odom and Laura Pearl Carter Odom, “LaFontine”, as he was known to his parents and siblings, was born on April 18, 1938, in Rocky Mount, NC. The family lived in Norfolk, VA during World War II, before moving to Charlotte, NC and settling off Tuckaseegee Road where the family had room for a very large garden, pigs, and a milk cow, which he said he milked twice a day, seven days a week. He admired and loved his parents deeply, whom he often said were the smartest people he ever knew, despite them not getting beyond the 7th grade. Their strong work ethic, value of education, and welcoming attitude toward others greatly influenced him throughout his life.

He attended Berryhill School, and it was here that he earned the name “Fountain” for talking too much when an exasperated teacher announced, “Words flow from your mouth like water from a fountain!” The name stuck but the talking continued. He graduated from West Mecklenburg High School in 1956 as senior class president. He was a very smart student but was frequently sent to the principal’s office who told him he was going to end up behind bars, which he did, but as an attorney representing jailed defendants.

Fountain became the first in his family to graduate from college. He worked his way through school, studying first at Charlotte College from 1956-1957 and then transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he graduated from UNC’s School of Law in 1962. He loved the Tar Heels!

In 1960, Fountain married his high school sweetheart, Jane Lowe Odom, and they began their life together in a small garage apartment off Vance St. in Chapel Hill. Jane supported and helped Fountain through law school and all 39 years of their marriage, before her passing in 1999. They had four children together, Tommy, David, Amy, and Matthew. Jane and Fountain were longtime members of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church where Fountain served as a deacon, elder, and Sunday school teacher. He was also a mason that embodied the words “More Light!”, as a member at Steele Creek #737 A.F. & A.M., Scottish and York Rites, and The Red Fez Shrine Club.

Fountain was admitted to the North Carolina State Bar in 1962 and began his professional life as a law clerk for NC Supreme Court Justice William B. Rodman, Jr. (1962-1963) and continued as first assistant city attorney of Charlotte from 1963-1964. He had a long and respected law career as a partner in Weinstein, Sturges, Odom, Bigger, Campbell and Jonas law firm. In 2003, he was duly admitted and qualified to serve as Attorney and Counsellor of the United States Supreme Court. In semi-retirement, he was very proud to be Of Counsel in The Odom Firm, PLLC, founded in 2000 by son, Tommy, and daughter-in-law, Martha. Fountain loved being a lawyer and building relationships with people in the community, even representing a horse and a grapevine on occasion.

His public service includes: 14 years as a North Carolina State Senator; six years as a Mecklenburg County Commissioner; and six years on the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Commission. He played an integral part in Charlotte-Mecklenburg now having thousands of acres of nature preserves, many miles of greenways, and numerous active park areas. He pursued these interests on a statewide basis when he co-sponsored and supported the landmark 1996 legislation which established the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, now known as the NC Land & Water Fund, which to date has conserved over 500,000 acres and protected or restored 3,000 miles of streams and rivers across North Carolina.

Fountain’s charisma allowed him to work well with others and get things done. He worked closely with friend and former NC Senator Marc Basnight on many pieces of legislation that benefited all North Carolinians such as public education, jobs, and healthcare. He often called for a return to policies that united our state rather than created division, even though his own backing of a bill in 2001 to make the Scuppernong grape the state fruit of NC caused quite the kerfuffle with blueberry and strawberry supporters. A great fruit debate ensued in the General Assembly before compromise legislation was reached making the Scuppernong grape the state fruit of NC and the blueberry and strawberry the state berries.

Fountain loved the history and mystery of Roanoke Island. He collaborated with Duplin Winery and Tinga Nursery to propagate cuttings from The Mother Vine, an over 250-year-old Scuppernong grapevine located on Roanoke Island. He built arbors and planted cuttings across the state at rest stops and government centers, often with the help of his grandchildren.

Fountain received numerous awards, among them a Presidential citation and American Red Cross award for saving a young boy from drowning, and Beekeeper of the Year from the NC State Beekeepers Association.

In 2002, Fountain married Carmen Hooker Odom whom he loved. He said he was blessed to have “married up” not once, but twice in his life. They enjoyed traveling around the world together and living in Raleigh, Manteo, NYC, and Charlotte. He often referred to being “on the highway of life” as he crisscrossed the state from the beautiful OBX to his beloved Blue Ridge Mountains in his packed Buick Park Avenue, often reminding folks, “If I don’t have it in my trunk, then you don’t need it.”

One of Fountain and Carmen’s most memorable trips was to Tanzania to hike Mount Kilimanjaro in 2004.They reached the summit one Christmas morning at sunrise and experienced a powerful spiritual sense of being one with the Creator and their fellow hikers, all from varied backgrounds and creeds, reinforcing the greatest commandment Jesus gave. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

We will miss Fountain aka “Dad”, “Grandaddy”,” Papaw”, “Pop”, “T.L.” but celebrate a life well lived and the love he so freely gave to others.

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13:13

Fountain is survived by his wife of 21 years, Carmen Hooker Odom of Charlotte, NC; a blended family of six children, Tommy Odom and wife Martha Odom of Charlotte, NC, David Odom of Marion, NC, Amy Odom of Chapel Hill, NC, Matthew Odom of Chapel Hill, NC, Jennifer Buell of Asheville, NC, Cyndi Buell-Christian and husband Shawn Christian of Wilmington, NC; eleven grandchildren, Tripp Odom, Brooke Figueroa, Sean Odom, Odie Williford, Jane Williford, Noah Williford, William Odom, Annie Odom, Nico Horschman, Henry Horschman, and Max Odom; three great-grandchildren, Oslo Odom, Julien Odom, and Milo Figueroa; brother Jimmy Odom and wife Phyllis Odom of Charlotte, NC; sister, Linda Hurley of Charlotte, NC, and sisters-in-law Sylvia Odom of Denver, NC, Jerrie Thompson of Morganton, NC, and Judy Rinn of Pawleys Island, SC; many dear nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

He is predeceased by his wife of 39 years, Jane Lowe Odom; parents, T.Q. and Pearl Odom; brother, Glenn Odom; brothers-in-law, John Lowe, and Bob Thompson; father and mother-in-law, Dave Lowe and Ruth Lowe.

Special gratitude is expressed to the caring staff and nurses at Brier Creek Health Center’s Memory Care Unit at SouthPark and VIA Healthcare’s Hospice and Palliative Care team. The family requests no flowers. Memorials may be made to Dementia Alliance of North Carolina, 9131 Anson Way, Suite 206, Raleigh, NC 27615, https://dementianc.org

Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth W. Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28204 (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be shared at www.kennethpoeservices.com.

 



See what people are saying:

  • Patti Armistead

    My condolences to his friends and family. I met Fountain at a few political events and he was delightful! It was sheer joy having a conversation with such a wise man who had accomplished so much. Every conversation was entertaining and educational. Fair winds and following seas, Fountain

    Wednesday, Dec 13 @ 5:15 pm