By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, Ed.D.
Christia Adair was born on October 22, 1893, in Victoria Texas, and was an NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) leader, who was a true activist during the civil rights era of the 1950s and was a part of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Like Adair, many black people wanted to be treated fairly and have equal rights. One right that they wanted was the ability to vote. Adair had tried to vote in the early 1920s, but the law prevented black people from voting in the primaries. Another issue she faced in Texas was that women were excluded to vote in Texas primary elections. Due to these voting restrictions, she joined the Houston branch of the NAACP.
For 12 years, she served as an executive secretary of the Houston NAACP, and the Houston branch took suit against a local election judge in the case Smith v. Allwright, for refusing a vote to a local black dentist, Dr. Lonnie Smith. The case was argued by Thurgood Marshall, and the courts decided in favor of Smith in 1944 and banned Texas’ white primary law. Adair was one of the first black women to vote in a democratic primary.
The work of Adair was very important as it stopped the use of race to be used as an obstacle to vote in Texas Democratic primaries. Because of her victories, she was the target of bomb threats and other acts of violence. This forced her to keep a gun at home for protection.
In 1957, Houston police attempted to obtain the chapter’s membership list from Adair, but she did not give it up as she believed the city was trying to demolish the group. She testified for five hours, but never gave in to what the police wanted. After two years, on an appeal to the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall won another case for the organization. It was in 1959 when the Houston chapter separated, but Adair and others reconstructed the Houston NAACP and recruited 10,000 members.
Adair served as a precinct judge of Third Ward, one of the first blacks to serve as a judge in Houston. She was also one of the first two Blacks elected to the state Democratic Committee in 1966, but the party rejected to seat her delegation.
The worked that Adair did, helped the lives of many black people. She collaborated with others to desegregate the Houston airport, department store dressing rooms, public libraries, and city buses. She also created jobs for many black people and helped blacks to be able to serve on juries. For her dedicated work, a Houston city park was named after her in 1977. She continued to do great work for her community and died at the age of 96 in 1989.