Hadley, Erma Jean Chansler Johnson (1942–2015)

By: Mia Gomez

Type: Biography

Published: June 24, 2022

Updated: June 29, 2022

Erma Jean Chansler Johnson Hadley, born on October 6, 1942, in Leggett, Texas, daughter of Leondus “Leon” H. and Thelma (Davis) Chansler, was the first African American from Leggett to graduate from college. She was also the first woman and first African American to lead Tarrant County College (TCC, known until 1999 as Tarrant County Junior College). She graduated from Dunbar High School in Livingston in 1959 and received her bachelor’s degree in business education from Prairie View A&M University. Although her courses were intended for teachers, and although she received a teaching certificate, Erma Chansler studied business education because she wanted to become a secretary. Upon graduating, she began working for an income tax accountant. She soon discovered that being a secretary was not her true passion, so she went on to teach business education at the all-Black Turner High School in Carthage, Texas. She earned her master’s degree in business education from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She also took graduate courses in business education at the University of Texas at Austin and post-graduate studies in higher education administration at the University of North Texas. On December 27, 1971, Erma Chansler married Lawrence Eugene Johnson, with whom she had one daughter, T. Ardenia. Following her husband’s death in 1996, she married Bill J. Hadley. 

In 1968 she began teaching business at Tarrant County Junior College’s Northeast Campus in Hurst in its inaugural semester. Across her decades-long career with TCC, she held numerous administrative positions, including director of personnel, vice chancellor for human resources, and vice chancellor for administrative and community services before being appointed interim chancellor in 2009 and then chancellor in 2010. She established several organizations and initiatives for college employees, such as Leadership TCC; the TCC Institute; and the TCC Employee Scholarship Program, which provided stipends to TCC staff taking TCC classes. She also established the district’s call center; the District Fulfillment Center, which handled bulk mailing; and the TCC campus copy centers. Erma Hadley markedly improved diversity in both the student body and the staff at TCC following her appointment as chancellor. Enrollment also grew considerably under her leadership.

She belonged to several community-focused organizations. She was appointed to the Trinity River Authority of Texas by Governor Bill Clements and to the Texas Governor’s Committee of Volunteerism by Governor George W. Bush. She was a member of the North Texas Commission, the Tarrant County Hospital District board of directors, the Rotary Club of Fort Worth, the Texas A&M Research Foundation board of directors, and the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine advisory council. She chaired the JPS Health Network; the United Way Marketing Committee; and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport board of directors, where she was the first woman and first African American to be appointed chair of the board—a noteworthy accomplishment for a woman during a time when White men controlled many of these businesses and organizations. She ran for Fort Worth city council in 1997 but lost. Her many awards and honors included an honorary doctorate in education from Paul Quinn College in Dallas and induction into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2010. She was an active member of the Mount Rose Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Erma Johnson Hadley died of pancreatic cancer on October 1, 2015, at the age of seventy-two.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 4, 2015. Tarrant County College, “A Conversation with Erma Johnson Hadley,” YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TgzbNfeAYw), posted July 17, 2019, accessed June 16, 2022. Tarrant County College Collegiate, October 7, 2015. “Texas Trailblazer,” KERA (https://www.kera.org/tv/trailblazer/), accessed June 16, 2022. Texas Women’s Hall of Fame: Erma Johnson Hadley, Texas Woman’s University (https://twu.edu/twhf/honorees/erma-johnson-hadley/), accessed June 16, 2022.

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

Mia Gomez, “Hadley, Erma Jean Chansler Johnson,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hadley-erma-jean-chansler-johnson.

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June 24, 2022
June 29, 2022

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