By Caleb Hennington
Digital Content Editor
Each February, Black History Month is celebrated throughout the United States as a way to remember the amazing contributions and achievements of black Americans and other people of African descent throughout history.
This month, we are celebrating the groundbreaking achievements of black Americans in the Arkansas United Methodist Church.
Our first focus in this series is on Theressa Hoover, a well-known name in Arkansas, nationally, and globally in the Church.
Theressa Hoover was the first African-American woman to become a top staff executive for the United Methodist Church, serving as the chief executive for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the corporate body of the United Methodist Women, from 1968 to 1990.
Hoover grew up in Texas and Arkansas and studied business administration at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. After graduating from Philander in 1946, Hoover helped form the Little Rock Methodist Council, a group of 19 black and white Methodist congregations that helped to change a former turkey farm into what is now Camp Aldersgate. The camp was dedicated in 1947 for African-American youth but now serves children and young adults with special needs.
Hoover was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2000, and continued to mentor young women of all races until her death on Dec. 21, 2013 at the age of 88. Her funeral was held at Sequoyah United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, where she was a member.
In 1990, the United Methodist Women established the Theressa Hoover Community Service and Global Citizenship Award to honor Hoover’s service to the UMW, the church, and the ecumenical world. According to the UMW website, “It recognizes her interest in community service and public policy and the way in which she expanded on her early experience to encompass a global view of reality and human possibility.”
Hoover’s lasting legacy can be found all over Arkansas, but most visibly at Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church in Little Rock. The church was chartered in 1981, and serves the community of Little Rock with a number of programs aimed at helping the homeless of Little Rock as well as individuals suffering from addiction in all its forms.
Thank you, Theressa Hoover, for your wonderful contributions to not only Arkansas, but the entire global United Methodist Church!
We celebrate the contributions of black Americans every year in February, but the immeasurable improvements to our society that black Americans have gifted the world should be honored each and every day.