Photograph of Myrna L. Bair (second row, third from left) and other Delaware legislators meeting with President Bill Clinton when he visited Delaware in 1998. Also pictured is then-governor of Delaware Thomas R. Carper (first row, far right). Official White House photograph. Myrna L. Bair papers, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library.

Myrna L. Bair collection

Library opens new Delaware political collection with Myrna L. Bair papers


8:40 a.m., Dec. 3, 2014--The University of Delaware Library has opened a new collection related to Delaware politics and government, the Myrna L. Bair papers.

The collection was donated by Bair in 2014 and is now available for research in Special Collections on the second floor in the Morris Library.

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Bair was elected as a Republican to the senate of the Delaware General Assembly in 1980 and served 10 terms until 2000. She represented the 5th District in north Wilmington, and held state senate leadership positions for 16 of her 20 years in office.

The Myrna L. Bair papers comprise legislative, topical, and constituent materials from her career in the state senate, as well as records from her professional involvement with national legislators and government organizations.

Bair was born in Huntington, West Virginia, on Oct. 26, 1940. In 1962, she graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry (Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude). Bair received a doctorate in inorganic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1966.

After earning her doctorate, Bair taught at Beaver College in Pennsylvania as an assistant professor of chemistry. In 1974, Bair became an instructor in chemistry and energy education at UD.

She spent a year as assistant director of public information in the Delaware Energy Office before being elected to the state senate in 1980.

Bair served on various commissions and task forces, including the Children at Risk Implementation Task Force, Joining Generations Steering Committee, Family Preservation Project, Family Law Commission, Homeless Task Force, Commission of the Courts 2000, and the Public Utilities Task Force.

Concerning economic issues, Bair sponsored the Financial Center Development Act, which incentivized banks to establish offices in Delaware.  In 1983, she assisted in the formation of a Senate Ad-Hoc Task Force on Export Trade. Additionally, she sponsored the Blue Collar Jobs Act, which provided retraining opportunities and granted tax credits to certain firms for hiring new employees.

Taking a special interest in children’s issues, Bair was an integral force in the creation of two of Delaware’s most significant child welfare entities, the Office of the Child Advocate and the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families.

During her time in office, Bair served on committees such as Education, Health and Social Services, Legislative Council, Administrative Services/Energy, Community Affairs, Ethics, Revenue and Taxation, Small Business, Youth Services, and the Executive Committee.

Bair played an active role in the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). She was a member of NCSL’s executive committee and served as chairperson of the Economic and Cultural Development Committee in the Assembly on State Issues. She was also elected president of the Women’s Network, which is a national organization of women legislators affiliated with the NCSL.

After retiring from public service, Bair taught at UD’s Institute for Public Administration (IPA). She was appointed as director of the IPA’s Personal Leadership Development Program (formerly the Women’s Leadership Development Program).

The Myrna L. Bair papers reflect her 20 years of service in the state senate, as well as her involvement with national legislative organizations. The collection consists of approximately 12 linear feet of legislative and topical files, correspondence, personal notes, press clippings, event programs, photographs, speeches, and other materials.

Access to the collection finding aid for the Myrna L. Bair papers is available through the library web.

The papers were processed by Cheryl Mariani, a graduate assistant from the Department of Political Science and International Relations, under the supervision of Danielle Emerling, assistant librarian, Manuscripts and Archives Department.

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