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Thelma Groomes

Thelma Lucille Jarmon Vass Groomes was born January 3, 1911, in Kinston, North Carolina. An only child, her father worked as a truck driver and a preacher while her mother was a seamstress and beautician. Groomes grew up in Washington, D.C., graduating from high school in 1928 and going on to attend Howard University, where she earned a B.A. in education in 1932. She would later return to school at the University of the District of Columbia to further her education in the 1960s.

After graduating from Howard, Groomes took a job with the U.S. Department of Commerce, tabulating figures for the next three years. In 1935, she left for the U.S. Department of Labor to work as a statistical clerk, and she would remain there until 1959. That year, she went to work at Hine Junior High School teaching English, reading and social studies. She also taught government and sociology at Roosevelt High School as part of its adult education program. While at Hine, Groomes was an outgoing teacher engaged in her students' progress. She was the sponsor of the United Nations Contest and trip to the United Nations in New York, the sponsor of the Junior Red Cross Society and sponsor of the Charm and Culture Club. She also served as a representative of the school to the city of Washington, D.C., and the National Education Association. Groomes retired in 1972, but spent the next year working as a consultant to Alton Elementary School in the Parent-Partnership Traineeship Program.

Over the years, Groomes has been involved in a wide number of organizations. She has served as the vice president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in the Capital chapter, served on the Women's Committee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and is a charter member and vice president of the D.C. Friends of Liberia. She also currently serves as the president of the Howard University Women's Club, a role that she also filled from 1954 to 1956. She is also a lifelong member of the National Education Association and the NAACP. Groomes has been named the Woman of the Year by Afro-American, has been inducted into the Washington Urban League Hall of Fame, and was named One of Washington's Best Dressed Women by the Omega Wives. Groomes has traveled the world and sponsored three overseas orphans. She has two children, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Groomes passed away on August 8, 2011 at the age of 100.

Accession Number

A2003.159

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/17/2003

Last Name

Groomes

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widowed

Schools

University of the District of Columbia

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Wilson J.o. Es

Howard University

First Name

Thelma

Birth City, State, Country

Kinston

HM ID

GRO02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Canada

Favorite Quote

Give To The World The Best That You Have And The Best Will Come Back To You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

1/3/1911

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken, Spinach

Death Date

8/30/2011

Short Description

Middle school teacher Thelma Groomes (1911 - 2011 ) served as the president of the Howard University Women's Board.

Employment

United States Department of Commerce

United States Department of Labor

Hine Junior High School

Roosevelt High School

Alton Elementary School

Favorite Color

Sky Blue

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Thelma Groomes's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Thelma Groomes lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Thema Groomes describes her maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Thelma groomes describes her mother's personality and occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Thelma Groomes describes her mother's educational background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Thelma Groomes describes her father's personality and family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Thelma Groomes briefly talks about being her parents' marriage and being an only child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Thelma Groomes describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Thelma Groomes describes her childhood neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Thelma Groomes talks about her father's truck driving accident

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Thelma Groomes describes her childhood personality and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Thelma Groomes describes her grandfather's encounter with a bear and researching her family history with HistoryMaker Gen. Julius Becton, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Thelma Groomes remembers her uncle, Elias Becton, a U.S. military veteran of World War I

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Thelma Groomes talks about her various nicknames

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Thelma Groomes describes her favorite elementary and high school subjects and teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Thelma Groomes describes her experience at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Thelma Groomes describes her experience as an undergraduate student at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Thelma Groomes remembers Howard University faculty like William Leo Hansberry and E. Franklin Frazier

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Thelma Groomes talks about her involvement in the Howard University Women's Club

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Thelma Groomes talks about Mary Church Terrell and Judge Mary Ann Gooden Terrell's non-profit organization for girls, High Tea Society, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Thelma Groomes describes her involvement with Howard University's Friends of the Chapel

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Thelma Groomes lists notable faculty and alumni of Howard University in Washington D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Thelma Groomes describes working in the U.S. government as an undergraduate student and teaching junior high school in 1959

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Thelma Groomes describes her experience in the U.S. Department of Labor and her husband's work as a union organizer

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Thelma Groomes describes challenges her husband faced as a union organizer

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Thelma Groomes describes her experience teaching at Hines Junior High School in Washington D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Thelma Groomes describes her tenure as president of the non-profit organization, Friends of Liberia

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Thelma Groomes talks about Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson's legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Thelma Groomes talks about her tenure as president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Thelma Groomes talks about Paul Laurence Dunbar High School's African American history curriculum

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Thelma Groomes talks about her affiliation with various civic organizations

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Thelma Groomes remembers the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 and the March on Washington in 1963

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Thelma Groomes remembers meeting Fannie Lou Hamer in 1964

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Thelma Groomes remembers the Poor People's Campaign in 1968 and being awarded Woman of the Year

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Thelma Groomes talks about her parents' involvement with the Universal Negro Improvement Association

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Thelma Groomes talks about her retirement from the District of Columbia public school system in 1972

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Thelma Groomes describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Thelma Groomes considers her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Thelma Groomes talks about the significance of oral history

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Thelma Groomes talks about her parent's perception of her work

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Thelma Groomes narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Thelma Groomes narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

1$7

DATitle
Thelma Groomes talks about Mary Church Terrell and Judge Mary Ann Gooden Terrell's non-profit organization for girls, High Tea Society, Inc.
Thelma Groomes describes her experience teaching at Hines Junior High School in Washington D.C.
Transcript
Mary Church Terrell, can you--$$Oh, yeah.$$What was she like, what was she like?$$Well, she was a no-nonsense person and very outgoing. And I, I learned a good bit about her when in late years when she started this protesting, you know, the discrimination here in Washington [D.C.] because they would meet every Saturday. My husband, Ogden Groomes, was a union man and, of course, he was at all of these things. He was right there. And they would march from maybe restaurants or wherever, and go in to be served and all that sort of thing. And they would meet at the church down there, I think, at Grant Circle a lot of times. But anyway, she was as, as hearty and as agile as most of them. She was with them. And she was sincere, a very sincere person. And I don't know, at her age, you just couldn't, you couldn't believe this, that she had the energy that she has, oh, yes. She was, she was a marvel. And when we gave her that citation, Howard Women's Club [Howard University Women's Club], and I presented it to her--I have a picture of it that I'm going to give them. And I, I was endeared to her. Mary Terrell, you know, and recently, I haven't asked her, but I've had, had occasion to talk with Judge Mary [Ann Gooden] Terrell. They call her Terrell (pronounced with stress on second syllable), and most people call Mary Church Terrell, Terrell (pronounced with stress on first syllable). And I don't know whether down the line, they are related or not. But she is a judge here at the, in the court system, and she has started a, an organization to work with--she calls it the High Tea Society [High Tea Society Inc.]. And they work with inner city girls, showing them that there's no alternative to the kind of thing that they're confronted with in communities. So I joined that in past year 2002, I think, and they have taken over the area and the home that the Baker's Dozen years ago. Those were a group of social workers here in Washington [D.C.] who had this home over on 4th Street, and they are occupying that to work with these girls as one of the, the activity houses.$$The Baker's Dozen?$$Huh? Baker's Dozen, yes. Most of those girls were social workers and they banded together and they worked for many, many years with inner city young women.$Tell me about school when you, were, were you excited to be able to start a career as a school teacher?$$Was I excited?$$Yeah.$$Oh, yeah, oh (laughter). Oh, when I, when I resigned from [the U.S. Department of] Labor and went--well, that summer, I got my mother [Cora Becton Jarmon] in my car and I drove around this horrible Hine [Hines Junior High School in Washington D.C.]. And when we (laughter), when we got around there to the front door, we saw all these young fellows. I guess about five or six of them in the vestibule of the school over there at 7th and Southeast [Washington, D.C.], shooting crap (laughter). And momma said, "Whoo, are you crazy, where are you going to teach?" I said, "Oh, yeah, they're, they're not school students, they're not students." I said, "They're just in front of the building doing what they're accustomed to doing." But I was really excited when I went in. I wasn't as confident and sure of myself at the beginning because I inherited a person that teaches program who had just left, whose position I had, you know, been put into. And he was a teacher of, of a business, and I wasn't a teacher of business, so I had to keep ahead of that. Well, that didn't happen, but maybe a year or so, one year, and I fulfilled that as best as I could, and I wasn't a bad teacher. And I, I was, being an older person, not just a young person put into that teaching position, I didn't have problems as some of the teachers had with discipline because, see, I was an older person. I'd been in government, and here I'd come as an older person into the classroom, and they respected that. And in many instances when they would bring students from Caesar Knowles [ph.] who problems students and put in my room, I didn't have any problem with them. And it ended up that I got a lot of them that I didn't, I shouldn't have had. I had too many of them, but it worked out well, for me and for them because I, I, I had the maturity to deal with them and let them know that life was much more than they were seeing right there at that time. And they could, they could make an impression and, and be fulfilled in whatever they chose to work at and, and actually be committed and, and dedicated to their, you know, their studies and that sort of thing.$$Okay. Now, now when did you, were you able to teach social studies and--$$Oh, yes, then I got my, my own program, English and social studies. Then later on, I enjoyed it because, and it was exciting, because I not only worked with them in the classroom, but I sponsored the Red Cross [The American Red Cross] group, the Charmette [ph.] Club. I had extra, I just took on extra stuff and worked with the students and they appreciated that and I see a lot of them now. They see me and know who I am, but they have to tell me, "Oh, I was in your class" and such and such thing. And even when I went down to jury duty, there were one or two down there--said, "Didn't you teach at Hine?" I said, "Yeah." She said, "I was in your class," and she had her little youngster along with her. And that, that's a rewarding kind of thing when you meet these students and they remember, you know, you and your relationship with them in the classroom. That's a rewarding thing about it all.