NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Harry Lloyd Hopkins (1890 - 1946)
Harry Lloyd Hopkins played a crucial role in focusing President Franklin Roosevelt's attention on the needy. He was born in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1890 and graduated from Grinnell College, Iowa. He received an education in social responsibility during his settlement house days in New York City as like many others who held positions of power during the New Deal.
Hopkins first worked for then Governor Franklin Roosevelt as head of New York State's Temporary Emergency Relief Administration in 1924 and went on in 1935 to be Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA). Within one hour of being sworn in by President Roosevelt as administrator of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration , Hopkins was preparing to distribute more than $5 million in federal funds to states. The funds, intended to help support those hardest hit by the Great Depression, paid for work performance , cash grants, groceries and clothing.
Hopkins is credited as being only to Eleanor Roosevelt in keeping the president's attention focused on the needy of the nation. Under Hopkin's direction, the WPA constructed more than 2,500 hospitals, 5,900 school buildings, 1,000 airports and 13,000 playgrounds. Hopkins believed in relief efforts that centered on work. Maintaining work skills, and training the unskilled to serve society when they returned to private employment were of prime importance in all the public agencies directed by Hopkins.
Hopkins also worked to achieve passage of the Social Security Act of 1935, and in December of 1938 was appointed secretary of commerce. Hopkins resigned as commerce secretary in 1939 because of ill health but soon stepped in to help their president as a special adviser in national defense. He served as Roosevelt's representative at meetings with Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaulle, and Joseph Stalin.
After Roosevelt's death, and until his own nine months later in January 1946 Hopkins worked in President Harry Truman's administration and was a major supporter of the formation of the United Nations. Truman awarded Hopkins the Distinguished Service Medal.