The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

The Honorable Shirley Nathan-Pulliam

Shirley Ann Nathan-Pulliam was born on May 20, 1939, in the Parish of Trelawny, Jamaica, West Indies. Her mother was a seamstress and retail store buyer and her father worked as a builder and carpenter. She earned her high school diploma from Mico Practicing School in Kingston, Jamaica in 1956. She fulfilled a childhood dream of becoming a nurse when she attended Bootham Park Hospital School of Nursing in Yorkshire England. While studying in England she met her husband, a United States Army soldier, they married and moved to Baltimore, Maryland, in 1960.

From 1962 until 1966 Nathan-Pulliam worked as a licensed practical nurse or LPN in the obstetrics ward at Baltimore City Hospital. From 1966 until 1967 she worked at Baltimore’s Bansecor Hospital. After earning her GED in 1969 Nathan-Pulliam enrolled in Baltimore City College and in 1975 graduated with an associate of arts degree in nursing. While a student at BCC, she created the nurses alumni association and became its first president. In 1980 Nathan-Pulliam earned her bachelor’s of science degree in nursing from the University of Maryland. In 1987 she received her master’s in administrative science from Johns Hopkins University. From 1975 until 1987 Nathan-Pulliam worked at Lutheran Hospital, later known as Liberty Medical Center.

In 1986, she unsuccessfully ran for the Maryland House of Delegates. Then, in 1994, Nathan-Pulliam was elected to represent Baltimore’s tenth district, becoming the first Caribbean-born and first African American registered nurse elected to the Maryland General Assembly. Nathan-Pulliam has sponsored and championed numerous healthcare legislation bills. Her first year in office she successfully secured 2.6 million dollars for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment for low-income women.

Nathan-Pulliam is currently CEO of a healthcare education consulting firm and serves as executive director of an adult daycare facility. She has been the recipient of many honors and awards for her civic and healthcare leadership.

Accession Number




Interview Date


Last Name


Marital Status



Mico Practicing School

Baltimore City Community College

First Name




Favorite Season


Favorite Vacation Destination


Favorite Quote

Can't is not in my vocabulary.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State


Interview Description
Birth Date


Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Jamaican Food, Plantains (Fried)

Short Description

Registered nurse and state representative The Honorable Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (1939 - ) worked as a registered nurse since 1962, and was the first Carribean-born person and first registered nurse elected to Maryland General Assembly, where she sponsored and championed numerous healthcare legislation bills.


Obstetrics Ward - Baltimore City Hospital

Bansecor Hospital

Liberty Medical Center

Maryland General Assembly

Healthcare Education Consulting Firm

Extended Family Adult Day Care, Inc.

Favorite Color

Fuchsia, Purple

Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Shirley Nathan-Pulliam interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam talks about her mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam discusses her father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam details her earliest childhood memories and the discovery of an older brother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam recalls the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in Jamaica

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam talks about her grandparents and plantation life in Jamaica

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam details her family structure after her parents' separation

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam talks about her experiences battling rheumatic fever as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam details her religious upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam discusses her dyslexia and migrane problems in her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam recalls the dreams and aspirations from her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam talks about her high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam remembers her nursing school experiences in England and meeting her husband

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam details her move from England to Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam describes race relations in Baltimore in the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam recalls meeting her husband's parents

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam discusses her career aspirations and her experiences in college

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam details her career at Lutheran Hospital of Baltimore

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam describes her run for the Maryland House of Delegates in 1986

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam describes her company Nathan's Network

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam talks about her foray into politics and her trip to Europe, Part 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam talks about her foray into politics and her trip to Europe, Part 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam recalls her first campaign win for the Maryland's General Assembly

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam talks about her accomplishments in the Maryland General Assembly

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam discusses the unique qualities she brings to the Maryland House of Delegates

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam comments on the changes in political leadership in Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam talks about the Caribbean population in the Baltimore area

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam discusses her battles for the rights of immigrants in the state of Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam comments on the changes she's seen on her return visits to Jamaica

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam talks about her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Shirley Nathan-Pulliam comments on her legacy and how she would like to be remembered







Shirley Nathan-Pulliam recalls her first campaign win for the Maryland's General Assembly
Shirley Nathan-Pulliam discusses the unique qualities she brings to the Maryland House of Delegates
You were thinking, okay, I'm gonna run for this seat. And what was it that finally--well, and you had, you know--.$$Well, 1993 I decided. It was 1993.$$1993. And you had raised money. So tell us a little bit about what that campaign was like and what was different about than in 1986?$$Well, I'll say what was different about it was that there was, it was a new, brand new district and there were no incumbents. And remember Senator [Delores] Kelley that I mentioned to you, she was then delegate and she moved from Baltimore City [Maryland] into Baltimore County to run as the senator because this--the district had been redistrict. And so I then somehow in our conversation asked or whether she allowed me to be on her ticket. And, and so there were two other people on the ticket. So it's three delegates and one, and one senator. And so we formed a ticket. We each ran our own individual campaign and then we came together before the election and kind of pool our monies and pool her for her brochures and for our mailing and for all the different things that we needed to do. And we campaigned together knocking on doors and doing the different things, yes, and have lawn signs and, you know, the whole works.$$And did you run unopposed?$$Oh, no. There were about twenty-one other folks who ran, too. A lot of folks ran. But the more the merrier because then they dilute the vote and the ones who are the front, you know--. And, and it was, you know, getting out and talking to the people. And, and, and people trust nurses so it, it's kind of help--my theme was "the nurse for your political health." And so, you know, and I gave Band-Aids and all kinds of little stuff out with my names, name on it. I did, you know--and so it was, it was a, it was a good--that night we were victorious in, in November of 1994.$$And so tell us about what it was like for you when you first arrived at the State House [of Delegates] in Annapolis [Maryland].$$Oh, well, before I, I came, Senator Kelley brought me down 'cause, of course, she was a [State] Senate-elect at that point and she was a delegate. So she, she brought me down. It was after the election and after the primary, I think, after I won the primary election. And we still had the general, but I knew that once I'd won the primary I could have, I would won the general because it was a predominantly Democratic district. And so she brought me down here for something, and, and I had to come under the, under the tunnel--not under the tunnel, under the--we have a--the, the garage is underground. And so as she pulled into the underground garage and she said, "This is where we park," you know, that you will be able to park, you know, when she, when she'll be on the Senate side but she still had a place in the House. And when as I drove in her car into the, into the House, that's when it dawn on me, hey, you're gonna be a delegate. You're gonna actually represent the people of your district. And so the rest was history, of course. And come November I won. And then, believe it or not, my office there, that suite where my office was Sauerbrey--she ran for, she had run for governor, Ellen Sauerbrey. She had occupied that office. And the office that I have now Bob [Robert] Ehrlich, who is now the governor of the state of the Maryland, that was his delegate office, and he had just won the seat to [U.S.] Congress.$$So what does that mean?$$So when I came in (laughs), when I came in, I had to--I couldn't move my things in because Bob Ehrlich had all his things still in the office. So he had to come and clean his office out. That was, that was when I first time I met him when he came to clean his stuff out the office. And, and then I was able to get the office cleaned up and have them painted it and start bringing my stuff in, you know. So I was all excited. So I--by Christmas I had all my stuff in so that by time January came I was ready to sworn in.$$And what was the reaction of your children?$$Oh, my, my children were, were, were very supportive and very excited about, about it, you know. Many times they feel I don't give enough time to them, that if I did, if I just quit and stop doing the stuff, I'll have more, they'll have more time. But now they're all grown up so it really don't make a whole lot of difference now.$As a nurse what perspective do you think you bring to the [Maryland] General Assembly?$$Oh, let--as a nurse and as the first--well, back up. Beside being the first African American nurse ever to be elected to this body, there are five nurses in the, in the [Maryland] House [of Delegates], but I'm the first African American and the first Caribbean-born and, and more specifically, Jamaican, first Caribbean-born ever to be elected in the 360-year history of this General Assembly. And so for those, for, for that reason I found, I thought I had a responsibility as a member of the Maryland, of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and as a nurse and, and, and a woman at that time still represented a large African American population, although I do have Caucasians and I do have a mixture of other folks--I don't lose sight of their health care and their needs, but I wanted to make sure that we look at this issue. And my grandfather always said it was important to be at the table. And then I just realized what he really meant about being at the table, okay. Because I know for a fact that if I wasn't at that table sitting in the Health and Government Operations and I served on the Environmental Matters Committee before, if I wasn't there, many of the issues that I'm talking to you about would never discussed--from HIV, AIDS to hepatitis C to, to substance abuse. You name the issues that I've brought before. And anytime that I thought that racism played a part and we were not getting our point out, I made sure I spoke loud enough and clear enough that I was understood. And if I had to get up on the floor of the House and fight for those issues, whether it was immigrant issues because I'm an immigrant, so I'm very touchy about issues that, that impact on immigrants as well. Because I, I, I know the history of America and I know in fact that this country is a country of immigrants. And so for which, regardless of what, which, which of those issues that comes before me, I fight. And don't take on a bill unless I feel that I can put every bit of my energy into getting it to, to passage. And the Children Health Initiative is another thing that I've been proud of. I wasn't the lead sponsor but I was one of the sponsor. I serve on the committee drafted and crafted that that provided health care to over a hundred thousand children in the state of Maryland.$$Poor children who couldn't afford--.$$(Simultaneously) Poor children that, that came in a little bit above within that poverty level. If they were low enough that they're on medical assistance, then they would have coverage. But those who fell within that gray area of poverty up to 200 percent of federal poverty would be able to get--200 and 250 percent of federal poverty.