5th National President
In 1970, the Seventeenth Assembly, meeting in Cincinnati, elected Helen Gray Edmonds of Durham, North Carolina, as the Fifth National President. Link Edmonds was born in Lawrenceville, Virginia and attended public school there. She earned a B.A. degree with a major in history from Morgan State College in Baltimore, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Ohio State University. She was the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. in History at the Ohio State University. After short periods of teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary and College, and at Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, she joined the faculty of North Carolina Central University. Here, for more than thirty years, until her retirement in 1977, she served successively as professor of history; chairman of the history department, dean of the Graduate School and University Distinguished Professor. Dr. Edmonds was the first Black woman to become Dean of a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the United States.
Dr. Edmond’s academic specialties were United States History since 1865; European Diplomacy since 1870; and International Relations. In her professional life, her continuing independent study and research have attracted support from some of the most respected foundations and institutions in this country. She has received grants from the General Education Board-Rockefeller Foundation; the Carnegie Fund; the Ford Foundation Fund for the Advancement of Education; Southern Fellowship Fund; the National Foundation for the Humanities; the Moten Center for Independent Studies and the Radcliffe College-Bunting Institute, among others. A 1954 Ford Foundation grant for post-doctoral study and research in modem European history enabled her to study at the University of Heidelberg, West Germany. The following year she was appointed by the U.S. Department of State as Leader-Specialist in the International Education Exchange to Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and France. She has been awarded nine honorary degrees and innumerable honors. Among numerous awards is The O. Max Gardner Award from the North Carolina Consolidated System of Higher Education given in 1975 for the “greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race”; the William Hugh McEniry Award from the North Carolina Association of Colleges and Universities “in recognition of principles of dedication and commitment to the education and advancement of the state.” A unique tribute was the establishment in 1977 of the “Helen G. Edmonds Graduate Colloquium of History” at North Carolina Central University, by the (then) twenty-five Ph.D. holders in History and Social Sciences, her former students who had completed their work in the undergraduate and graduate departments at North Carolina Central University. The annual conference affords young scholars opportunity to present and critique their ongoing research. Link Edmonds served as a visiting professor or visiting scholar at eight different colleges and Universities. For six successive summers, 1968–1974, she traveled to Oregon to serve at Portland State University. In 1982, as second research scholar for the Rochester University and New York area colleges and universities, she followed the famous historian, Henry Steele Commager. Other institutions include her Alma-Mater, Ohio State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Harvard University, Radcliffe College and Western Michigan University.
Link Edmonds had lectured one or more times at eighty-seven different American colleges and universities in nine institutions in Sweden, Germany and Liberia. In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Link Edmonds as his personal representative to the dedication of the new capital building in Monrovia, Liberia. She spoke to the assembled delegations. While in Liberia, she lectured at the Universities of Monrovia and Liberia, and five other educational and/or community groups. Link Edmonds served as Alternate-Delegate to the 1970 General Assembly of the United Nations. During this session, which celebrated the twenty-fifth year of the founding of the United Nations, she chaired the U.S. Delegation to the Assembly’s Third Committee, Human Rights. She received recognition of appreciation for these services from President Richard Nixon, President Nixon also cited her services on the National Advisory Council of the Peace Corps and the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Armed Services. Link Edmonds attended the International Women’s Year Conference in Mexico City in July 1975 as a representative from The Links, Inc. As a guest of the Israeli Government Helen Edmonds participated in the 1971 Conference on the “Changing Needs in the Education of Women in the Second Development Decade” held at Mount Carmel International Center in Haifa, Israel.
Link Edmonds was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, the National Council of Negro Women and the National Council of Women of the U.S.A., Inc. For four years, Link Edmonds gave dynamic and electrifying leadership to The Links, directing and urging the group toward wider horizons in national and international goals for service. Before her election as national president she developed and delineated the National and International Trends and Services program facet. She was national director of this program area from 1962 to 1967 and again from 1969 to 1970, before the national and international facets were separated. Biennially, The Links, Inc. gives an award for outstanding international volunteerism. Edmonds who drafted this original component and engaged the organization in its undertaking was the first individual so recognized, and in her honor, the award is named the Helen G. Edmonds International Trends and Services Award. During her term as national president, the chapter establishment program was structured and national Grants-in-Aid became an integral part of The Links’ operation. Through her leadership, one of the most significant movements in the organization’s history was begun the– targeting of these Grants-in-Aid to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). With a near perfect record of meeting chapter obligations, the Grants-in-Aid for the first biennium exceeded $l32,000.00, and ultimately exceeded $1,000,000.00. Link Edmonds practiced her own philosophy that mass communications were the strongest basis for organizational understanding. To further this understanding, she developed the Assembly workbook distributed in advance to each Assembly delegate and the complete national roster.
To assist the national president, the Executive Council, and the Assembly, she also organized the National Advisory Council, composed of all past officers and the organizing members of the Philadelphia (PA) Chapter who cared to participate. As its first major task, Link Edmonds asked the Advisory Council to explore and evaluate the feasibility of a national headquarters for the organization. On the basis of the Advisory Council’s study and recommendations, the concept and trial structure for the headquarters were approved by the 1974 Washington Assembly. As a professional historian, Link Edmonds never lets the group forget its obligation to its own heritage. She urged the creation of an organizational archives and the preservation of chapter materials, and emphasized the importance of complete records and reports. More than any other person, it was Link Edmonds who established the organization’s program and structure to make dedication to human service the identifying characteristic of The Links.
In 1986, Link Edmonds was named a Distinguished Woman of North Carolina. Three years later the North Carolina Central University social science and history building was renamed in her honor. Dr. Helen Grey Edmonds died in Durham, North Carolina on May 9, 1995.