Myrna L. Bair (b. 1940), served in the Delaware Senate from 1980 to 2000. Republican Myrna Bair represented Delaware’s 5th District, Foulk Woods. For 16 years she held a legislative leadership position, including 14 years as Senate minority leader and two years as minority whip. She served on committees such as Education, Health & Social Services, Legislative Council, Administrative Services/Energy, Community Affairs, Ethics, Revenue & Taxation, Small Business, Youth Services, and the Executive Committee.
Myrna Bair was born in Huntington, West Virginia, on October 26, 1940. In 1962, she graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry (Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude). Bair received a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1966. She was married to the late Thomas Irvin Bair II, Ph.D., a chemist whose research led to the commercial process for Kevlar. They had two children: Thomas I. Bair, III and Catherine L. Keaty, Ph.D.
After earning her Ph.D., 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 the University of Delaware. Before she was elected to the Delaware Senate, Bair spent a year as assistant director of public information in the Delaware Energy Office.
In 1980, Bair was elected to represent Delaware’s 6th district. After reapportionment in 1981, Bair’s district was shifted and renumbered. Therefore, starting in 1982, she was considered the representative of Delaware’s 5th district, Foulk Woods.
During her time in office, Bair played an active role in the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). This includes serving as a member of the NCSL’s Executive Committee and serving as chairperson of the Economic and Cultural Development Committee in the Assembly on State Issues. Bair was also elected President of the Women’s Network, which is a national organization of women legislators affiliated with the NCSL.
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, Bair 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. These are the Office of the Child Advocate and the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families. Bair was honored by the Foster Parents of Delaware in appreciation for her support of Foster Family Care in Delaware. She also received the 1999 Ron Fioravanti Award from Grassroots Citizens for Children, in recognition of “her unwavering commitment and dedication to raising the standard of protection for Delaware’s children.”
After retiring from public service, Bair began teaching at the University of Delaware’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).
"140th General Assembly, Senate Resolution No. 24." Official Website of the First State Legislature. http://www.legis.delaware.gov/LIS/LIS140.NSF/ (accessed October 2014).
"Myrna Bair's Biography." Project Vote Smart. http://votesmart.org (accessed October 2014).
"Thomas Irvin Bair II, Ph.D.'s Obituary." The News Journal. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/delawareonline/obituary.aspx?pid=170703113 (accessed October 2014).
Deshon, Mark. "UD Women's Leadership Development Program promoted." UDaily. http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2009/mar/leadership033109.html (accessed October 2014).
"Myrna Bair Honored by Delaware YWCA." UD Institute for Public Administration. http://www.ipa.udel.edu/ipa/news/bairYWCAaward.html (accessed October 2014).
The Myrna Bair papers span the dates 1980-2008, with the bulk of materials representing her 20 years of service in the Delaware Senate, 1980-2000. Records include legislation, correspondence, personal notes, press clippings, event programs, photographs, speeches, and other materials related to Bair’s service in the Delaware State Senate. The collection consists of approximately 12 linear feet of paper records.
The first series, Legislature files, consists of files related to legislative work. Materials include legislation, press clippings, correspondence, personal notes, event programs, and memorabilia. These files are organized chronologically and provide an overview of each year’s prominent issues through materials such as Bair’s annual Senate newsletters, legislative agendas, and press clippings. The files also include yearly summaries of legislation sponsored by Bair, as well as materials supporting her work in areas such as economic development, education, energy, and family issues.
The second series, Topic files, consists of materials providing information about legislative issues related to Bair’s work in the Delaware Senate. Materials included are press clippings, correspondence, legislation, court filings, personal notes, speeches, information booklets, event programs, conference materials, projector slides, maps, charts, and invitations. Also included are stickers and postcards from an National Conference of State Legislatures meeting in Texas. Files are primarily related to education reform, including issues of desegregation in which Bair fought for local school board control; economic development; and children’s issues, such as Bair’s role in the formation of the Office of the Child Advocate.
The third series, Conferences, consists of materials from professional conferences attended by Bair during her time in office, including the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the State Government Affairs Council (SGAC), the Council of State Governments (CSG), and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Materials included in these files are event programs, correspondence, personal notes, photographs, schedules, and maps. Also included are name badges with pins representing various states and organizations, which Bair collected at the conferences.
The fourth series, Correspondence, is primarily comprised of thank you letters received by Bair for her work in the Delaware Senate.