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ADAIR, CHRISTIA V. DANIELS

ADAIR, CHRISTIA V. DANIELS (1893–1989). Christia Adair, black civil-rights activist and suffragist, was born on October 22, 1893, in Victoria, Texas, one of four children of Hardy and Ada (Crosby) Daniels. She attended a small school in Edna, then went to Austin with her brother in 1910 to attend high school at Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson College). She later went to Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University), then taught at Edna and later at Vanderbilt, Texas. In 1918 she married Elbert H. Adair, a brakeman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The couple moved to Kingsville, where Christia Adair started a Sunday school and joined a biracial group of women opposed to gambling. She also became one of the few black suffragists in the state. When she attempted to vote after passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, however, she learned that state law concerning primary elections prevented her.

Hurt that she could still be denied the vote, she began shifting her focus to racial issues. When presidential candidate Warren G. Harding appeared in Kingsville in 1920, she had carefully situated several black children close to Harding, but when he finished speaking he reached over them to shake the hands of white listeners behind them. "I was offended and insulted and I made up my mind I wouldn't be a Republican ever," she later recalled. The Adairs moved in 1925 to Houston, where Mrs. Adair became an early member of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Elbert Adair died in 1943, and for the next sixteen years Christia Adair remained active in the NAACP, which she served as executive secretary for twelve years. The Houston branch brought suit against a local election judge in Smith v. Allwright for denying the vote to a local black dentist, Dr. Lonnie Smith. The case, argued by NAACP special counsel Thurgood Marshall, was decided in favor of Smith by the United States Supreme Court in 1944. Smith was important in the history of civil rights law because it ended the use of race as a barrier to voting in Texas Democratic primaries (see WHITE PRIMARY). This and similar NAACP activities made the chapter a target for its opponents. Bomb threats were not uncommon. Although Christia Adair was sometimes frightened and told people she kept a gun in her home, she was remembered by others as unafraid. In 1957 Houston police attempted for three weeks to locate the chapter's membership list. While the official charge was barratry-the illegal solicitation of clients by attorneys-Adair believed the real purpose was to destroy the organization and its advocacy of civil rights. She testified for five hours in a three-week trial over the attempted seizure of NAACP records. Two years later, on appeal to the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall again won a decision for the organization. Adair never admitted having membership lists or having member's names. In 1959 the chapter disbanded and she resigned as executive secretary, though she later helped rebuild the group's rolls to 10,000 members.

She also helped desegregate the Houston Public Library, airport, veterans' hospital, and city buses. Partly as a result of her work, blacks became able to serve on juries, and the city's newspapers began referring to blacks with the same titles they used for whites; blacks became able to be hired for county government jobs. Christia Adair successfully desegregated a department store's dressing rooms when she insisted on using a room reserved for white women only. With Frankie Randolph, she founded the Harris County Democrats, an integrated alternative to the county's segregated Democratic organization. She was precinct judge of the third ward, one of the first blacks in Houston to serve as a judge. In 1960 a Harris County grand jury investigated the records of an election in her ward, and the process embittered her. In 1966 she was one of the first two blacks elected to the state Democratic committee. In response, the state party refused to seat the Harris County delegation, then agreed to seat only its two black members. She refused the offer.

Christia Adair was active in the Methodist Episcopal Church and was the first black woman elected to its general board. She was chairman of the Christian Social Concern program at Boynton United Methodist Church and served on its national board of missions. She was also active in the Texas Club, part of the National Association of Colored Women's and Girls' Club. She was one of fifty black women interviewed for an oral history of black women conducted by the Radcliffe College Schlesinger Library of History of Women in America, and in 1974 the Houston chapter of the National Organization for Women honored her for suffrage activism. She worked as a county clerk of absentee voting when she was well into her eighties. On her eighty-fourth birthday a county park in Houston was dedicated in her name. Christia Adair died on December 31, 1989.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Doris T. Asbury, Negro Participation in the Primary and General Elections in Texas (M.A. thesis, Boston University, 1951). Alecia Davis, "Christia V. Adair: Servant of Humanity," Texas Historian, September 1977. Michael L. Gillette, The NAACP in Texas, 1937–1957 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1984). Houston Chronicle, October 23, 1977, March 10, 1980. Houston Post, February 25, 1972. Houston Informer and Texas Freeman, April 8, 1944. Mary Beth Rogers et al., We Can Fly: Stories of Katherine Stinson and Other Gutsy Texas Women (Austin: Texas Foundation for Women's Resources, 1983). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Nancy Baker Jones

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Nancy Baker Jones, "ADAIR, CHRISTIA V. DANIELS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fad19), accessed October 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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