Thereasea Delerine Clark Elder

Thereasea Delerine Clark Elder
Early African American Public Health Nurse in Charlotte

Thereasea Delerine Elder was an early African American public health nurse in Charlotte, North Carolina.[1] (Nellie McKenzie  Sanders might have been the first and Blanche Hayes Sansom became the first African American school nurse in Charlotte in 1920.)

Elder was born in 1927 in Lancaster, South Carolina. She was raised in Charlotte and attended West Charlotte High School. Elder attended Johnson C. Smith University, the US Cadet Nursing Program and the Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing in Durham, North Carolina. She went on to study pediatrics at Howard University's Freeman Hospital in Washington, D.C. Her area of interests included nursing, anatomy, chemistry and child development.[2]

Elder went to work at the African American Good Samaritan Hospital in Charlotte in 1948. That same year she married Wille Elder, a World War II veteran who ran a service station. They would later have two sons. She was certified as a public health nurse and worked with the Mecklenburg County Health Department until her retirement in 1989. When she started her nursing career, she was only allowed to treat African American patients or go to the homes of African Americans. The health department changed their policies in 1970 after the Charlotte Schools were desegregated. After that, Elder could treat anyone, even though she was subject to embarrassing remarks and comments while she was helping her patients.[2][3]

Active in the community, Elder founded the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Historical Society and the Greenville Community Historical Society and was a charter member of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The Thereasea Clark Elder Neighborhood Park was created in her honor by the Charlotte Parks and Rec Department.[2]


  1. Jameson, Tonya (October 18, 2016). "Thereasea Elder Treated Patients In NC KKK Communities". Praise 100.9. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  2. Price-Patterson, Charlene (March 5, 2014). "Charlotte public health nursing pioneer tells her story". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  3. "Honorees - Thereasea Elder, Nurse". The Heritage Calendar. NC Heritage. March 2015. Retrieved February 16, 2018.


  • Remembering Thereasea Elder, Mecklenburg County's first black public health nurse. (2021, January 6). CityMetro. Available at



Compiled by: 
Phoebe Pollitt