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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Millie McClelland Charles Photo
Millie McClelland Charles* (1923-2020)

Millie McClelland Charles greatly impacted the field of health and mental health through her leadership in the founding and guiding of the Southern University of New Orleans School of Social Work.  As Dean of the Social Work Program, she led the development of both the BSW and MSW programs into full accreditation, providing opportunity for professional development to countless students. The founding of Southern University in New Orleans was a highly political event when it took place at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, reportedly to discourage black students from attending the predominately white University of New Orleans, located less than a mile away.

Millie Charles’ ability to transfer the handful of social work courses taught at the University of New Orleans to Southern University of New Orleans, and subsequently expand on them and develop them into fully accredited BSW and MSW programs is considered somewhat of a miracle in New Orleans. The high caliber programs that conitnue today have attracted a well-credentialed, culturally diverse faculty and student population.

Dean Charles’ interests in social work education went beyond just working in the state of Louisiana. She served as the Co-Chair, Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Annual Meeting; a Member of the CSWE Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum Standards; and a Site Visitor for the CSWE Accreditation Commission. In addition, she consulted with numerous Undergraduate and Graduate Social Work Programs around the U.S. and advised on curriculum.

Millie Charles received numerous awards, including: National Social Worker of the Year (NASW), 1975; Humanitarian of the Year, Federal Women Employees Association, 1975; Founders Award, New Orleans Chapter, National Association of Black Social Workers, 1979; Doctor of Humane Letters, Dillard University, 1993; and she was also one of four women honored by the New Orleans YWCA for lifetime of service to the community.

NASW Social Work Pioneer - 1995

Millie Charles receives The Times-Picayune Loving Cup.

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.