Thelma Mothershed-Wair


Thelma Mothershed-Wair is a member of the Little Rock Nine.

The Little Rock Nine was a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

Little Rock Nine Charly Palmer - October Gallery by AL Todd


Wair was born in Bloomburg, Texas and is the daughter of Arlevia and Hosanna Claire Mothershed of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Little Rock is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Arkansas.

Bloomburg is a town in Cass County, Texas, United States.


She attended Dunbar Junior High and Horace Mann High schools, and despite daily torment from white students at Little Rock Central High School, she completed her junior year at the formerly all-white high school during the tumultuous 1957โ€“58 year.


Because the cityโ€™s high schools were closed the following year, in order to earn the necessary credits for graduation she took correspondence courses and attended summer school in St. Louis, Missouri.

Summer school is a school, or a program generally sponsored by a school or a school district, or provided by a private company, that provides lessons and activities during the summer vacation.

St. Louis is an independent city and major U.S. port in the state of Missouri, built along the western bank of the Mississippi River, which marks Missouri's border with Illinois.

Distance education or distance learning is the education of students who may not always be physically present at a school.


She received her diploma from Central High School by mail.


Wair graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1964 and earned her master's degree in Guidance and Counseling and an Administrative Certificate in Education from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 1970 and 1972, respectively.

A master's degree is usually a second-cycle academic degree awarded by universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville,, is a coeducational, public Master's college and university in Edwardsville, Illinois, United States about 20 miles northeast of St. Louis, Missouri.

Southern Illinois University is a public research university located in Carbondale, Illinois, United States.


Wair taught home economics in the East St. Louis School System for 28 years before retiring in 1994.

Home economics, domestic science or home science is a field of study that deals with the economics and management of the home, family and community.


She has been known as the leader of the Little Rock Nine.


In 1958, she received the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for outstanding achievement.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is a civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 as a bi-racial organization to advance justice for African Americans by W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary White Ovington and Moorfield Storey.


In 1998, Mothershed-Wair received the Congressional Gold Medal.

A Congressional Gold Medal is an award bestowed by the United States Congress; the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian awards in the United States.


Since then she has worked at the St. Clair County Jail, Juvenile Detention Center in St. Clair County, Illinois, and as an Instructor of Survival Skills for Women at the American Red Cross Second Chance Shelter for the Homeless.


During the 1989โ€“90 school year she was honored as an Outstanding Role Model by the East St. Louis Chapter of the Top Ladies of Distinction and the Early Childhood-Pre Kindergarten staff of District 189.


She also received the National Humanitarian Award, the highest award given at the 2005 National Convention of Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. held in Chicago.


Wair and her late husband have one son.


In 2003 she moved back to the Little Rock area.


She received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2016.

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