NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
George Nickel (1906 - 1990)
George Nickel enhanced public welfare services for California's neediest, developing innovative projects to relieve economic stress on individuals and providing social benefits to the larger community struggling with an influx of migrants due to the Dust Bowl in the Midwest.
He was particularly active during the years of the Great Depression and World War II, serving impoverished California communities, and displaced children after the war.
Nickel was instrumental in the passage California's social work licensing legislation, the first in the US. In 1978 he established the California Social Welfare Archives and served as its president until 1989.
Foster was particularly interested in foster home placements, childcare centers and children born to unmarried parents. His first work was with unemployed homeless, single men and with couples entering Rancho Los Amigos in Los Angeles County, a place for those in great need as a result of the Depression.
In 1932, he became director of the Kern County Welfare Program after it received funding through the Emergency Relief and Construction Act. In 1938, he accepted the position of Western Area Public Relations Director for the California State Relief Administration. The purpose of this position was to address sharply-rising interest rates through persuading the legislature to place a lower ceiling on the interest that could be charged. In this position Nickel lobbied for the California social work licensing bill and helped establish consumer credit counseling services in San Diego and Los Angeles.
George Nickel received his master’s degrees in both economics and social work from the University of Southern California.
Significant Achievements and Awards
2002: Inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction, University of Southern California
Nickel has had two awards established in his honor: the George D. Nickel Ward for Outstanding Professional Service and the George Nickel Award for Outstanding Contributions to Social Welfare.