Elizabeth Lucille (Betty Lu) Hunter Sorensen Adams (1926–)

Elizabeth Lucille (Betty Lu) Hunter Sorensen Adams was a pioneer occupational therapist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital as well as the founder and second president of the Arkansas Occupational Therapy Association and its first delegate to a national conference. She has also distinguished herself as an artist and writer.

Betty Hunter was born on February 3, 1926, in Tokyo, Japan, the daughter of Joseph Boone and Mary Cleary Hunter, both missionaries; she has one brother. The Hunter family came to Arkansas when, due to the Depression, there were no funds to return to missions. They lived in Little Rock (Pulaski County), where her father founded Pulaski Heights Christian Church.

In 1940, the family left Little Rock to return to Japan but stopped in Seattle, Washington, because of threats of war. Her father went ahead to Japan to close the mission but was put under house arrest; he was allowed to leave on the last boat out of Japan prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. While Hunter was in Japan, his family moved to Hollywood, California.

When Japanese Americans were evacuated from the West Coast, the Hunters followed some of them to the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas, where Betty Hunter graduated from high school in 1943. She graduated summa cum laude from Texas State College for Women in 1947 with a BA degree and a BS in occupational therapy and psychology.

Occupational therapy was a new field started during World War II, and it suited Hunter’s interest in art and healing. She interned at Triborough Tuberculosis Sanatorium on Long Island, New York, in 1947–48 and became certified as an occupational therapist, registered (OTR). There, she met cartoonist John Sorensen, who was a patient. They were married on June 15, 1949, and eventually had three children. At the time, John Sorensen was thought to be well, but after a relapse, the two left New York for the better climate of New Mexico in 1950. They got no farther than Little Rock, when John became ill and was hospitalized at the Arkansas State Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Booneville (Logan County).

While John recovered, Betty Sorensen moved to Little Rock and was hired by Ruth Beall to start an occupational therapy department at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in 1950, even though the hospital board had not granted approval and her first month’s salary had to be borrowed from other sources. She called on and managed to secure funding from the Masons for a new building. Sorensen worked for ten years at the hospital while her husband was recuperating, and she became chief of occupational therapy. She also worked with the Cerebral Palsy Association while at the hospital and, in 1960, was hired part time by the association to assist their work in the public schools. In 1974, Sorensen was the first therapist in Arkansas to perform consultancies in nursing homes. She organized the Arkansas Occupational Therapy Association.

After her husband’s death in 1969, she married Thomas Adams Jr. He died in 2003.

Always interested in world affairs, Adams became state co-chair for the nationwide discussion program on world affairs, Great Decisions. She organized a weekly panel discussion on local television, and weekly Great Decisions discussions were organized in local communities across the state. She was the co-chair when Sargent Shriver was the featured speaker for the Great Decisions program in Arkansas.

In addition to her career as an occupational therapist, Adams has employed her talents as an artist and a writer. She exhibited her art in a one-woman show in Little Rock in 1962 and in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1963 as well as in group shows at the Arkansas State Festival of the Arts in 1960 and 1961, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in 1955, and with the Arkansas Artists League in 1964.

Adams’s poetry has been published in World Call and other publications of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In 2007, Adams published a children’s picture book, which she wrote and illustrated, through Ex Libris Press; it contains three stories: “Bed Time,” “Let’s Count,” and “Miss Nice Ho-Ho.”

For additional information:
Ferguson, John L. Arkansas Lives. Hopkinsville, KY: Historical Record Association, Inc., 1965.

Who’s Who of American Women. Chicago: Marquis Who’s Who, 1971.

Evalena Berry
Little Rock, Arkansas


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