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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James Dumpson Photo
James Russell Dumpson* (1909-2012)

James Russell Dumpson was a Vice President of the New York Community Trust, one of the nation's largest, oldest and most respected philanthropic organizations and a leader in the community foundation movement. The trust distributes about $60 million each year to projects primarily in the New York City area. Dumpson's pioneering work began in 1959 when he made history by being named Commissioner of Welfare for the City of New York. His appointment was marked as the first time a social worker had held that position. At the time, Dumpson was the only black welfare commissioner in the country. He returned to the city seven years later to become Administrator of the Human Resources Department.

His pioneering work continued as he was also named Dean of Fordham University's School of Social Work. With this appointment he became the first black dean of a non-black school of social work. Fordham later named an endowed academic chair for him. James Dumpson advised presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, serving in his capacity as a social worker on various advisory commissions, including the Presidents Commission on Narcotics and Drug Abuse. He also was appointed U.N. advisor to the government of Pakistan to help that new government set up schools of social work after its partition from India.

Congressional Record remarks Celebrating Dr. James Dumpson’s 100 Years and His Impressive Record of Public Service (April 2009).  NASW salutes Jim Dumpson on his 100th Birthday.

The Honorable Charles B. Rangel Of New York In The House Of Representatives

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mr. RANGEL. Madam Speaker, I rise today in honor of Dr. James Dumpson, a preeminent social activist of outstanding character and a transformative life’s work, who turns one hundred years of age on April 5, 2009. This public servant of notable and illustrious record—who in 1959 became the only African American Commissioner of Welfare in the country—is a quiet hero of our movement for Civil Rights and racial equality. He is a gentle man of forceful voice and conviction, agitating on behalf of children, the elderly, and the impoverished in New York for 60 years, his country for 80 years—and we are all the better for it. A modern-day Renaissance man, Dr. Dumpson’s long-distinguished activism touches the fields of health, education, social justice, and academia. He is a familiar, popular, and pioneering leader in New York and in the African American community; an icon who worked tirelessly on behalf of others.

He earned a teaching certificate in 1932 from the Chaney Normal School, a B.A. degree from Temple University in 1934, an M.A. degree from Fordham University, and his Ph.D.—when he was henceforth known as “Dr. D.”—from the University of Dacca in Ghana. Dumpson has throughout his life served as a teacher to others, teaching elementary school for two years as a young man, and later, beginning as a Visiting Associate Professor at Fordham University in 1957 and returning a decade later as Dean of the Graduate School of SocialWork, with the faculty rank of professor. He served as a United Nations Advisor and Chief of Training in Social Welfare to the government of Pakistan in 1953, returning to Pakistan in 1971 as a consultant and receiving a fellowship there in 1977 through the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to Pakistan.

He cemented his trailblazing status by becoming Commissioner of Welfare for New York City in 1959, the only African American and social worker to serve in that post in the country. He wielded his talents and skill to assist Presidents Kennedy and Johnson as an advisor, serving on various advisory commissions, including the Parents Commission on Narcotics and Drug Abuse. He did not retire until the spritely age of 97, channeling his vigor and youthful spirit as New York City’s Health Service Administrator and Chairman of the Health and Hospitals Corporation beginning in 1990, and teaching at Fordham University up until 2006.

May this Congress today note, applaud, and send its gratitude for the contributions of Dr. Dumpson, and send him warm birthday wishes.


Dr. James  Russell  Dumpson was born on April 5, 1909 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the first of five children to James and Edyth Dumpson. The family moved from Hutchinson Street, where he spent his early child hood years to Delaney Street where he attended O. B. Kato and Newton Elementary School, and the West Philadelphia High School for Boys. He graduated from Cheyney Normal School in 1932, and went on to enroll in Temple University, and Cheyney State University to earn his undergraduate and graduate degrees.  He earned the Doctorate of Philosophy Degree from the University of Dacca in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) while on assignment as an Advisor to the United Nations on Child and Family Welfare and Institutional Development.  He was awarded a number of honorary degrees for his outstanding contributions and achievements in a distinguished career of public service.  

Beginning as a caseworker for the Philadelphia Department of Public Welfare, Dr. Dumpson’s career in health and human services as public servant, educator, administrator, social activist, advocate, humanitarian and scholar spanned more than half a century.   He began his career during the decades of the 1930s and 1940s shortly before the enactment of the Social Security Act, and obtained prominence as government social spending increased through the 1970s and declined in the 1980s. In the decades of the 1990s as government was abandoning the “safety net” philosophy he was widely acclaimed for a career hailed by his colleagues as the embodiment of the highest ideals of humanitarianism and public service that had influenced public policy internationally, nationally and locally.

Dr. Dumpson’s portfolio in the public sector included appointments with the United Nations to design social services for youth and social work education programs in Pakistan and Thailand; and presidential committees to advance public policy for children, youth and the elderly over the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. In City government, he held cabinet level positions in the Beame, Wagner, Lindsay, Koch and Dinkins administrations.  As Commissioner of the City’s Department of Public Welfare, he oversaw efforts to desegregate the city’s child welfare system, the redirection of programs for the poor under the 1962 Public Welfare Amendments, and the creation of the Human Resources Administration, which centralized social services under one governmental office.  As Chairman of the Health and Hospitals Corporation, he fought to preserve the municipal hospital system, promoted policies responsive to the devastation wrought by the HIV/AIDS epidemic on communities of color, and focused public attention on the plight of the urban minority elderly.  Reform of the city’s child welfare system was a priority of Dumpson’s work as a government official, mayoral advisor, and academic.

 Always strongly identified with his professional discipline of social work, Dumpson consistently linked his public policy work in government with practice through his affiliations with schools of social work and dedication to the tripartite mission of the academy: teaching, research and service. He held academic appointments with New York University, Hunter College, and served as Dean of the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, and President of the Council on Social Work Education.  As a senior consultant for The New York Community Trust, he focused on the elderly, supported research, funding programs, mentored a new generation of program officers and started the New York Center for Policy on Aging.  He continued to serve on national and city boards, publish, and accept public speaking engagements until his retirement from public life in 2002. An enduring theme of Dumpson’s work was a steadfast commitment to creating what he referred to as “a caring society for all Americans.”  Dr. Dumpson was a practicing Catholic and was deeply religious and anchored his complex public life in the most simple of moral imperatives-- “we are all our brothers’ keepers.”

Dr. Dumpson had a distinguished record of publications and his numerous awards included a named Professional Chair in Child Welfare Studies at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, the Keystone Award for distinguished service in Social Welfare from the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the Distinguished Service Medal from the Council on Social Work Education, and Honorary Lifetime Member of the Institute of Social Sciences and Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine.

On the occasion of his 100th Birthday in 2009, a Centennial Celebration culminated in the Dumpson Exhibit at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.  The Exhibit displayed selected public documents from the James R. Dumpson Collection preserved in the archival holdings of Fordham University Graduate School of Social Services. The Collection includes the publications, presentations, prepared papers, and other institutional records of his public life and is an extensive primary source of historical data on topics that formed the centerpiece of his career.

 At the time of his passing, Dr. Dumpson was residing in his 5th Avenue apartment where he had lived since 1970, and the home from which he traveled extensively to advance causes of social justice and excellence in social work practice for more than half a century. Up until the time of his passing, he continued to travel to his home in Hawaii, and maintained an active life with a social network that includes his daughter, Jeree, siblings, extended family members, colleagues and life-long friends. He made his transition in the early morning hours of November 5, 2012 while in hospice after experiencing a stroke.  He left this life surrounded by love and in the loving care of his daughter Jeree, and loving care-takers, Robert Beckles, Gregory Duncan, Anthony LaCroix, and Elsworth Brewster.  

Dr. Dumpson is survived by wife Goldie Dumpson, daughter  and son-in- law Jeree and Adam  Wade, brother Father Roland Dumpson, sister Doris D. Grundy, nephews and nieces James H. Dumpson, Jeffrey Hart, Cheryl Waters, Eric Waters, and Linda Hart; grandnephews J. Donald Dumpson, Stephen Waters, Michael Waters and a host of other relatives and friends.  He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

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.