Theressa Hoover (1926-2013) was the first African-American woman to become a top staff executive for The United Methodist Church. She led the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the corporate body of United Methodist Women, for 22 years. She joined the organization 20 years earlier as a field worker for the Central Jurisdiction, traveling the United States to conduct leadership development and training events at a time when segregation was widespread. She was elected the Women’s Divisions’ top executive in 1968, the year the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church voted to merge to form the UMC, and led the group steadily through the tumultuous years of its reorganization. Hoover mentored young women of all races, developing future leaders of the church, and worked for the inclusion of women and people of color at all levels of the church and society. Time magazine once described her as “a highly influential Methodist bureaucrat,” to which Hoover reportedly responded, “If you’re going to be a bureaucrat, you ought to be a good one. I was a good one.” In 1983, she published a book, With Unveiled Face: Centennial Reflections on Women and Men in the Community of the Church. In her honor, the Women’s Division established the Theressa Hoover Community Service and Global Citizenship fund, which provides grants for young women to travel and study, and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, her hometown, offers a scholarship in her name.
Want to know more?
United Methodist News Service story on her legacy
Information on the Theressa Hoover Community Service and Global Citizenship Award
Facebook page for the Little Rock, Ark., church named for her