NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Whitney M. Young, Jr. Photo
Whitney Moore Young, Jr.* (1921-1971)

Whitney Moore Young, Jr., was the son of a Kentucky educator. He graduated from Kentucky State College at 18 and became a high school teacher and coach. From 1942 to 1944, while in the U.S. Army, he studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After his discharge, he received an MSW from the University of Minnesota (1947) and began to work with the Urban League in Minnesota . He became executive secretary of the Urban League in Omaha , Nebraska (1950), taught social work at the University of Nebraska and Creighton University , and became dean of the Atlanta University School of Social Work (1954). 

In 1961 Young was appointed executive director of the National Urban League, remaining there until his death. (He drowned during a visit to Nigeria ). He became president of the National Conference on Social Welfare in 1965 and president of NASW in 1969. [Young was elected a NASW Social Work Pioneer in 1993]. A noted civil rights leader and statesman, he worked to eradicate discrimination against blacks and poor people. He served on numerous national boards and advisory committees and received many honorary degrees and awards —including the Medal of Freedom (1969), presented by President Lyndon Johnson—for his outstanding civil rights accomplishments. Young's books include "Beyond Racism: Building an Open Society" (1969). Peebles-Wilkins, W. (1995). Young, Whitney Moore Jr. In R.L. Edwards (Ed.-in-Chief), Encyclopedia of Social Work (19th ed., Vol. 3, pp. 2618-2619). Washington, D.C.: NASW Press.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.