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Thyra Merriweather Charles

Born on 6-16-1919. She was born in Houston, TX. She later died on 1-16-1987.
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Thyra Merriweather Charles was born in Houston, Texas on June 16, 1919. She was the third of four children born to Frank E. Merriweather, Sr. and Carmelita Mitchell Merriweather. Thyra moved to Buffalo, New York with her parents and siblings, Frank Jr., Hulit and Barbara in 1925. Her father and mother were founders and publishers of the Criterion newspaper, the oldest continuously running Black newspaper in the area.

She attended Buffalo public school 32 and Hutchinson Central High school. She earned a college entrance diploma in 1935. In June 1941 she received a diploma from the Edward J. Meyer Memorial Hospital School of Nursing. She attended the State University of New York at Buffalo, from which she graduated with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Public Health Nursing in 1949 and a Master's degree in Supervision and Administration of Public Health Nursing in June 1950. She was the second African American woman to graduate from a Buffalo Nursing school and the first to receive a Master's Degree in the field. Mrs. Charles is noted for a number of "firsts" including; first African American to be employed as a qualified public health nurse by the Erie County Department of Health; first Black from Western New York to earn a Masters Degree in Nursing and first Black to teach in a collegiate institution in Buffalo.

She was the Associate Director for Public Health Nursing at Meyer Memorial Hospital (Erie County Medical Center) and Clinical Associate Professor of Community Health Nursing at the University at Buffalo from 1952-1970. The foundations for the current discharge planning programs for home care were developed through the leadership and future orientation of Mrs. Charles. She was the first African American to hold the post of Assistant Director of the Visiting Nursing Association of Buffalo. After her retirement in 1979, she continued to teach holding an instructional position in nursing education at Daemen College.

Mrs. Charles is remembered for her dedication to Black nursing students and for her zealous never tiring efforts to secure scholarships for those students to enter collegiate programs. She maintained a continued personal interest and involvement with students providing mentor relationships for all those willing to accept her assistance. Her quest for education was insatiable and she demanded that same commitment from others. Her dream of freedom for Black people was rooted in the belief that the "Truth will make you Free". In her view there were no limits.

Thyra demonstrated a true love of her fellowman through the work and community activities. She always assumed the responsibility for reaching out to people of all races, creeds and nationalities. She willingly sought out opportunities to serve humanity and to promote educational, social and cultural changes. In 1948, she was a co-founder and first president of the Registered Nurses Social Club, the fore-runner of the Practical-Registered Nurses Club. Her involvement in such organizations as Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; Buffalo Negro Scholarship Foundation; the Community Advisory Council of the State University of Buffalo; and the former Model Cities of Buffalo are just a few examples. She was also active in Republican women's groups, the NAACP and the Buffalo Urban League.

Thyra was a member of the New York State Nurses Association, District 1 and first chair of that group's Human Relations Committee. She was also former member of the New York State Nurses Association and the American Nurses' Association. In 1974, she was a finalist for the American Nurses' Association Mary Mahoney Award. This nomination was supported by the New York State Nurses. In addition, she was the recipient of numerous community awards including the Black Heritage Service Award; Alpha Kappa Alpha Community Service Award; Practical-Registered Nurses Club, Distinguished and Devoted Service Award; Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Inc. of Buffalo Sojourner Truth Award and the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Nursing 125th Anniversary Award for Teaching Excellence.

Mrs. Charles was united in Holy Matrimony to Clifford Charles Sr. She and her husband were the parents of two sons, Clifford H. Sr. and Earle Charles. Mrs. Charles became a member of St. Philip's Episcopal Church along with her husband and was a parishioner there until his death in 1968. She returned to the church of her youth, Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church, where she was an active member until her death.

Mrs. Charles died on January 16, 1987. She was the sister of Uncrowned Queen Barbara Merriweather Sims, Esq.