Thelma Adair (1975)

Thelma Adair


Thelma Adair, ruling elder of Mount Morris Presbyterian Church, advocate for children and migrant families, pioneer of Head Start, and jewel of Harlem was elected president of BPU in 1975. Born August 29th 1920, she grew up in Iron Station, North Carolina, part of a large Baptist family. She graduated from Barber Scotia College and in 1940 married the Presbyterian minister Eugene Adair. The couple moved to Harlem in 1942 when Eugene took the pastorate of Mount Morris. Thelma completed a doctorate at Teachers College, and taught at Queens College, specializing in early childhood education. The Adairs organized a Harlem community center and early learning school in Harlem in 1944 — a forerunner of the federal Head Start program — which now bears their names. As the first Black woman elected moderator of the Church in 1976, Thelma served as an international advocate, visiting 70 countries. She would reprise that kind of work in 1980 as president of Church Women United. In recent public appearances her voice retains the tone and tenor of forty or more years ago, reminding audiences that we guarantee a changed future by maintaining the health and well-being of children. 

See More