One of five children of James C. Hoover and Rissie Vaughn, Ms. Hoover was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on September 7, 1925.
After her mother's death, when Ms. Hoover was still a small child, she and her siblings were reared by her father, a city hospital orderly. When Ms. Hoover was refused attendance at the segregated high school, her father sent her to high school in Texas, where she lived with an aunt.
She returned to Arkansas to study business administration at Philander Smith College, where she received her bachelor's degree in 1946 and began working with the Little Rock Methodist Council. Two years later, in 1948, she joined the staff of the Woman's Division of Christian Service as a field worker, a job that took her into the denomination's segregated central jurisdiction, conducting leadership development and training events with district and conference groups and helping women organize local units. She earned a master's degree from New York University's Steinhardt School in 1962, and in 1968 she was elected chief executive of the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, becoming the first African-American woman to hold the position or any comparable-level post in the denomination.
Ms. Hoover chronicled the work of United Methodist Women, its predecessors and the importance of women organizing for mission in her 1983 book, With Unveiled Face. For 22 years Ms. Hoover served as head of the division and was an outspoken advocate for women and children. Ms. Hoover retired from the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church in 1990.
Ms. Hoover leaves behind a legacy of global citizenship. In 2004, Ebony magazine named Ms. Hoover one of the 100 most influential African-American women. In 1990, the policymaking group of United Methodist Women created the Theressa Hoover Community Service and Global Citizenship Award. The Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, was named for her, an exceptional honor, as few churches are named for women during their lifetimes.
"Theressa Hoover led the Women's Division during a time of great change in the newly formed United Methodist Church and in the world," said Harriett Jane Olson, current chief executive officer of United Methodist Women. "Her ability to speak plainly in challenging times and regarding challenging topics, and her astute organizing enabled the women of the church to stand with her as a voice for justice and mercy rooted in faith. I join hundreds of other United Methodist Women in gratitude for her forward-looking work and witness."
Ms. Hoover died on December 21, 2013 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She was 88.
About the Award
This fund was established in 1990 by the United Methodist Women (then the Women's Division) Board of Directors to honor Theressa Hoover for her service to United Methodist Women (1968-1990), The United Methodist Church and the ecumenical world. 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.