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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Hortense King McClinton, MSW
Hortense King McClinton

Residence Hall renamed after Hortense McClinton, the first Black professor hired at Carolina

Link to Livestream Event, May 13, 2022

Pioneering Contributions

Hortense King McClinton, MSW, paved the way for African American social workers in North Carolina by removing obstacles and implementing systems to ease their transition from MSW graduates to full-time workers. Many would say that securing a Bachelor's Degree from Howard University in 1939, followed by a Master's of Social Work Degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work in 1941, would be reason enough to celebrate Hortense McClinton. But she proved to be first in many other ways.

McClinton was the first African American professional social worker to be employed in several public, private, and governmental social agencies, including the Durham County Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. She was also the first African American professor hired in 1966 by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, at the School of Social Work. As a trained social worker, McClinton contributed social work skills and knowledge in a field that, at the time, taught more theory than practice.

McClinton's professional competence demanded that hiring policies change at the university and that direct practice approaches be tailored more appropriately to acknowledge diversity. She illuminated the significance of culturally competent practices and taught the skills and knowledge that social workers needed to provide services without racial and cultural bias.

Career Highlights

McClinton spent nearly 45 years as a professional social worker. She started this career at the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia and at the renowned Wharton Centre in North Philadelphia. She was the first African American professional social worker to be employed at the Durham County DSS and the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. At the hospital, she was the only African American professional on staff. McClinton worked in the Psychiatry Department where she supervised MSW students from several universities.

Biographical Data

Born in Oklahoma, McClinton received her Bachelor's Degree from Howard University in 1939 and her Master's of Social Work Degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work in 1941. She was a member of both NASW and the National Association of Black Social Workers. She continues to be a powerful presence in the local human service community, her church, her sorority, the Durham Public Library, and her book clubs.

Significant Achievements and Awards

Awards named in honor of McClinton include:

  • The Hortense K. McClinton Faculty Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is given by the Black Student Movement to faculty members who "teach principles both inside and outside of the classroom" and "empower students by educating them through his or her tireless commitment";
  • The Hortense K. McClinton Outstanding Faculty Staff Award has been given since 19781 and honors a faculty or staff member, past or present, who has made outstanding contributions to the Carolina community;
  • The Kappa Omicron Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority presents the annual Hortense McClinton Senior Service Award Recipient to service-minded students; and,

McClinton also received a Legacy Award for distinguished service from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Black Faculty Staff Caucus in 2009.

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!  2020 & 2021 Pioneers will be inducted at the 2022 Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.

  • Bruce Donald Buchanan
  • Philip Davis
  • Joel Fischer
  • Maeda J. Galinsky
  • Hali Hansuli Giessler
  • Richard Alan Hoefer
  • John "Jay" Kenney
  • Mary Jo Monahan
  • Alicia Nájera 
  • Lynette Kahekili Kaopuiki Paglinawan
  • Richard Kekumuikawaiokeola Paglinawan
  • Jean Kathleen Quam
  • Diana S. Richmond Garland
  • Marlene Anita Saunders
  • Vicki L. Shepard
  • Shulamith Lala Ashenberg Straussner
  • Reeta Wolfsohn
  • Marleen Wong   
  • Richard Woodrow    
  • John A. Yankey
  • Jeffrey Scott Yarvis