The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated ​Historical Overview

The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated was chartered on October 11, 1958 as the seventy-seventh chapter of the national body.  The chartering ceremony was held at the home of Mrs. Albert L. Turner (Dessa), who also served as its first president.  Mrs. Turner along with fifteen other distinguished black women established the chapter.  The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated was sponsored by the Raleigh Chapter.  The installation ceremonies were conducted by national president, Mrs. Pauline Weeden Maloney of Lynchburg, Virginia.  She was assisted by the national vice president, Mrs. Bennie McLendon of Atlanta, Georgia; and the Southern Area Director, Mrs. Esmeralda Hawkins of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  Other visiting Links came from Greensboro, North Carolina and Danville, Virginia to share in the chartering celebration.

The sixteen charter members were: Mrs. William A. Clement (Josephine), Mrs. David Cooke (Barbara), Mrs. Robert Dawson (Julia), Mrs. Vashon Eagleson (Frances), Dr. Helen G. Edmonds, Mrs. Harry J. Edmonds (Rebecca), Mrs. C. Durham Grandy (Ophelia), Mrs. James S. Lee (Mollie), Mrs. Herman H. Riddick (Lola), Mrs. Alexander Rivera, Jr., (Hazel), Mrs. William H. Robinson (Fannie), Mrs. Charles C. Spaulding (Mae Bass), Mrs. John S. Stewart (Otelia), Mrs. Albert L. Turner (Dessa), Mrs. Chalres D. Watts (Constance), and Mrs. John S. Wheeler (Selena).

The first official meeting of the duly installed The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated was held November 11, 1958 at the home of the Chapter’s first president.

During the past 50 years, The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated members using their time, talents and personal financial resources have developed and implemented numerous local projects in support of The Links, Incorporated’s four facets: The Arts, Services to Youth, National Trends and Services, and International Trends and Services.  The Durham (NC) Chapter has been and continues to be committed to educational, cultural and civic projects to benefit humanity, primarily those of African descent.

Throughout the early years, the Chapter focused on local projects. These included establishing a Milk Fund for school children who needed extra nourishment; providing books and other educational supplies and material for economically disadvantaged school children; sponsoring academic development and self image projects for Durham’s youth; and providing scholarships for youth talented in the arts and academics.

Beginning in the mid 60’s, the Chapter focused on providing financial resources to support and contribute to national organizations identified by The Links, Incorporated 1964 National Assembly.  These organizations were the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Urban League.  Also, the Chapter donated books and classical records to Stanford L. Warren Library.

In the early 70’s, The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated supported the National body’s decision to provide funds to the Sickle Cell Disease Research Fund at Howard University School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). On December 11, 1959, a Charity Ball was the Durham Chapter’s first fundraiser to support the Milk Fund.  The second fundraiser was a Links’ Theater Party in 1973 which made possible greater participation in the National projects.  Most of the local and national projects undertaken during the first eighteen years were paid for with financial resources from Chapter members.  However, beginning in the early eighties the Durham Chapter sponsored art auctions, bargain sales and galas to raise funds for local charities and projects.

Between 1980 and 2008 fundraising projects consisting of primarily Art Auctions generated $85,000 to support a variety of charities, community projects and organizations.  In addition to fund raisers, Chapter members used their own resources to support and make financial contributions to local and national organizations.  Habitat for Humanity, The Art Museum at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) art and music programs for Durham youth, the Washington Merrick Magazine for the Blind and an Endowed Scholarship at North Carolina Central University through the Southern Area’s Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUS) Scholarship Endowment Initiative have been among the many local organizations to receive contributions from The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated members. Also, Chapter members made contributions internationally by providing funds for the Maama Kits Initiative to combat high infant and maternity mortality in Africa, primarily for residents of Uganda and providing school supplies for the ten schools in South Africa that were established by The Links, Incorporated.   Major support from Chapter members was provided to Arusha, Tanzania.  It included adopting children, providing scholarships and funding for the regional library.

The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated has raised and donated over $150,000 for charities and other community service organizations.  These organizations included:  support for Lincoln Community Health Center, Durham County General Hospital, The Durham Striders, Habitat for Humanity, Stanford L. Warren Library, The Durham Nativity School, Durham Housing Authority Scholarship, John Avery Boys and Girls Club, Community Health Coalition, Duke Pediatric Bone Marrow Program, North Carolina Central University Museum of Art, North Carolina Central University Scholarship Endowment, Urban Ministries, Minority Youth Leadership Agenda 2000, Students Taking Academic Responsibility (STAR) Program at Hillside High School, “Reading Buddies” at W. G. Pearson Elementary School, Moms are Grand, Duke University Hospital bone-marrow transplant unit, Durham Volunteer Center, Durham Public Schools, Hayti Heritage Center and Genesis Home.

The United Negro College Fund, National Urban League and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Civil Rights Museum at Memphis, Tennessee are among the national charities that have benefited from the Chapter’s financial contributions.

The Chapter collaborated with several local organizations to bring projects and services to the community.  These organizations are the Junior League of Durham, the Junior League of Raleigh, the League of Women Voters, Durham Volunteer Bureau, Good Will Industries Auxiliary, Communities in Schools, Women-In-Action, and Jack and Jill of America.  In 1991, Chapter members partnered with the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship to provide sweat equity to build a Habitat House.  The Chapter was the first Black group and the first women’s organization to sponsor a Habitat House in Durham, Wake or Orange counties.

In 2007, The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated partnered with The Center for Child and Family Health of North Carolina to conduct a community symposium on prevention and treatment of the effects of children’s maltreatment and exposure to violence.  Over 100 individuals participated in this symposium.


Awards and recognitions are a part of the Chapter’s history.  During the 1970’s, The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated celebrated several significant recognitions, achievements, and awards: the 1970 National Chapter of the Year Award; Link Elna Spaulding received the 1970 National Woman of the Year Award for the founding of the Women-in-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes and for leadership in civic and social life of Durham; Dr. Helen Gray Edmonds was elected the fifth (5) National President serving 1970-1974; and Link Rebecca Edmonds served as National Administrative Assistant, 1970-1974 and National Assembly Coordinator, 1974-1976.  In addition to Dr. Edmonds, the Chapter had several of its members in leadership roles in the Southern Area.  They include: Link Barbara Moore, Southern Area Director 1987-1991; Link Nancy Bowens, Secretary 1961-1965 and Archives Committee Chair 1987-1991.  Link Brenda Armstrong, MD., Health and Wellness Linkage Chair 1999-2003.  Link Mary Currie, former member of the Durham Chapter, is the 2007-2009 Southern Area Director and currently a member of the Atlanta, Georgia Chapter.

In 2008, the Chapter received a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to focus on philanthropy in the Black Community.  The Durham Chapter is the first Link, Incorporated Chapter to receive a grant of this size from the Ford Foundation. Link Micheline Malson wrote the grant (Links Give) and is leading The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated’s efforts to achieve the grant’s goals and objectives.

The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated is one of seventy-four chapters in the Southern Area.  In 1975, the Durham Chapter hosted the Twenty-Third Annual Southern Area Conference – April 11-12, 1975.  The conference theme was “Improving the Quality of Life by Linking Leadership and Service to Meet the Challenges of the Community and Nation.”  According to the Southern Area Newsletter (Summer 1975) the conference set a record in attendance.  Never before in the history of The Links, Incorporated, had so many dignitaries gathered for an area conference.  Attendees included Link Sarah Scott, the co-founder of The Links, Incorporated; Link Pauline Ellison, national president; Link Celestine G. Cook, national financial secretary; Link Emma Walker, national journalist; Link Helen Edmonds, immediate past president; Link Allie Weeden, general counsel and Link Julia Brogdon Purnell, Southern Area Director.  Link Josephine Clement was named by the National body Link of the Year in 1975 for her work in education, civic and community involvement.

In 1977, Link Minnie Pearson Spaulding received the Woman of the Year Award for her service as president of National Barristers organization.

During the Southern Area Conference in Winston Salem, North Carolina, April 1-4, 1993, the Chapter received three awards for its Habitat Adopt A House Project (better known as the House that The Links Built).  The awards were the Umbrella Award (this award is given for a program initiative which includes all four of The Links, Incorporated facets: The Arts, Services to Youth, National Trends and Services and International Trends and Services, Chapter of the Year Award, and the Outstanding Service Award for Extraordinary Effort.  A year later, in July 1994, at the National Assembly, the Chapter received two National Awards from The Links, Incorporated, the Umbrella Award and the Extraordinary Effort Award for the Habitat Project. Between 2000 and 2008 the Chapter was recognized and received several awards.  The Chapter received first place for its umbrella project in 2001 at the Southern Area Conference.  At the 2004 National Assembly the Chapter received the Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Annual Trumpet Award.  During the 2006 National Assembly, The Chapter was recognized for “Best Practices” (International Trends and Services) Facet.  The project included two activities: (1) the purchase of Maama Kits with products to combat high infant and maternal mortality and (2) providing scholarships for twenty children in Arusha, Tanzania.  The Chapter received third place award for its umbrella program,“Healthier Families: Changing Our Life Styles,” at the 2007 Southern Area Conference.  At the 2008 National Assembly, the Chapter received the “Best Practices” Certificate for its outstanding programs at the Genesis Home (transitional housing for homeless families, especially single parents) during 2006-2008.

Each year since its chartering, the Chapter has held Charter Day and Friendship Ceremonies to salute the Charter members, past presidents and current members.  Time to play, have fun and strengthen the bonds of friendship with members of The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, Connecting Links (husbands) and friends have created opportunities for memorable social events.  These events included Christmas parties, dinners, slide presentations of world travels by members and Connecting Links, Valentine parties, theater parties, art festivals, cookouts, dances and events for Links seeking public office, and parties honoring visiting dignitaries to the Durham Community.

In addition to supporting the mission and programs of The Links, Incorporated, many members of The Durham (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated provided distinguished services to the community, state and nation through elective office in the political area and professional organizations and many other important endeavors.

A half century of extraordinary and significant contributions to the Durham community, nationally, and internationally especially to citizens of African descent is the Chapter’s rich legacy of service, excellence, and leadership.  As we forge ahead to even greater accomplishments, contributions, leadership and service in improving the quality of life of the Durham community and humankind we are thankful for the support of all individuals who have joined us to make a difference and celebrate our mission of service and world class leadership the past fifty years.

Our Past Presidents

1958-60                     Dessa Turner
1960-62                     Lola Reddick
1962-64                     Frances Eagleson
1964-66                     Josephine Clement
1966-68                     Julia Dawson
1968-70                     Minnie Spaulding
1970-72                     Sadie Washington

1972-74                     Roberta Jackson
1974-76                     Barbara Moore
1976-78                     Irene Jackson
1978-80                     Constance Watts
1980-81                     Joyce Michaux
1981-84                     Carolyn Thorton
1984-86                     Gayle Fleming
1986-88                     Jeanne Lucas
1988-90                     Carolyn Johnson
1990-92                     Betty Blackmon
1992-94                     Crystle Swain

1994-96                     Wanda Garrett
1996-98                     E. Joyce Grant
1998-00                     Brenda Armstrong
2000-02                     Brenda Shaw
2002-04                     Meredythe Holmes
2004-06                     Nellie Hardy
2006-10                     June Michaux
2010-14                      Faye Tate Williams
2014-18                      Anita Daniels

2018-Present            Dr. Desiree T. Palmer