A native of Bloomberg, Texas, Thelma Mothershed Wair attended Dunbar Junior High School and Horace Mann High School, before transferring to Central High School. Despite the tumultuous experience of her junior year at Central High, she completed her course work successfully. After the city’s high schools were closed the following year, Mrs. Wair earned the necessary credits for graduation through correspondence courses, and by attending summer school in St. Louis, Missouri. She received her diploma from Central High School by mail.
Mrs. Wair graduated from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in 1964, earning a degree in Home Economics Education. She earned her Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling, as well as an Administrative Certificate in Education from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. She worked in the East St. Louis school system for 28 years, including 10 as a Home Economics teacher, and 18 as a counselor for elementary career education, before retiring in 1994. Mrs. Wair has also worked at the St. Clair County Jail, Juvenile Detention Center in St. Clair County, Illinois, and was an instructor of survival skills for women at the American Red Cross Shelter for the homeless.
In addition to the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal and the Congressional Gold Medal, Mrs. Wair received numerous awards for her professional contributions and community service, including Outstanding Role Model by the East St. Louis Chapter of the Top Ladies of Distinction, and the Early Childhood Pre-Kindergarten staff of her district in East St. Louis., among others.
Mrs. Wair currently resides in Little Rock. She and her late husband Fred have one son, Scott, and two grandchildren, Brennan Dallas and Gabriel Scott.