Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

James R. Dumpson

The Fordham University community mourns the death of James R. Dumpson, Ph.D., former dean of the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) and tireless advocate for the poor.  Dumpson died Monday, November 5, 2012 at the age of 103.

"Dr. Dumpson was an outstanding professional role model and leader in the profession," said Peter Vaughan, Ph.D., dean of GSS.  "He was also an exceptional leader in the city of New York, and a wonderful friend and supporter of GSS and the University."

Born in 1909 in an area of Philadelphia known as Hell's Half-Acre, Dumpson began his career teaching in a segregated school in Oxford, PA.  He moved on after several years to work as a supervisor in Philadelphia's welfare bureau, and in 1940, he became a caseworker for the Children's Aid Society in New York City.  He joined the Department of Welfare in 1956 and was appointed deputy commissioner two years later.

In 1959, he became the second black commissioner in New York City government and the first social worker to oversee welfare.  He used the position to advocate strongly for the rights of welfare recipients.  Against critics of the time, Dumpson argued that those on welfare desperately needed the support, and that virtually every adult would rather work than receive welfare, because employment is bound up with personal dignity.

"There's no comfort in living on a subsistence level," Dumpson said.  "There's no comfort in constantly having to establish eligibility.  No comfort in the necessary intrusions into your private life to find out if you qualify for assistance."

In 1967, Dumpson became dean of GSS, making him the first black dean of a non-black school of social work.  He was dean until 1974, when he left to lead New York City's Human Resources Administration.  In this role, he worked fervently to combat welfare fraud, setting up a computer system to identify recipients on city and state payrolls or receiving unemployment benefits.

Since then, he held adjunct professorships at GSS, including a professorship for the endowed chair in Child Welfare that bears his name.

"Jim Dumpson was a man ahead of his time, a great leader in the social welfare and social service community," said Brenda McGowan, Ph.D., professor of social work at GSS and the James R. Dumpson Chair in Child Welfare Studies.  "I knew him for about 30 years and always enjoyed his company.  He was always charming and interesting."

"He is a gentle man of forceful voice and conviction, agitating on behalf of children, the elderly, and the impoverished," said Rep. Charles Rangel, on Dumpson's 100th birthday.  "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."

Nicknamed "Little Dynamo" for his energy, Dumpson worked in the administrations of five New York City mayors, his roles ranging from chairman of advisory committees on juvenile justice and foster care, to administrator of health services and head of city hospitals.  His work also took him beyond New York City.  He served as president of the national Council on Social Work Education and traveled repeatedly to Asia through the United Nations to help set up social work programs.

"Dr. Dumpson made an enormous impact on social work practice in the pubic and private sector," said Alma J. Carten, Ph.D., associate professor at the NYU Silver School of Social Work, who is writing a book on Dumpson's career.  "He made enormous contributions toward improving child welfare services for children of color and in social work education.  He built his career on the goal of creating a caring society where all people can reach their full potential."

"You've always got to hold on to the great potential for change that people [have]," Dumpson once said.  "And when you see that change, that's what keeps social workers from being overwhelmed from the misery around us."

Story by: Joanna Klimaski
Photo by:
Ken Levinson

  Cheyney State Teachers College, Cheyney, PA
1932 - 1937   Teacher, Oxford, PA
1937 - 1938
  University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work
1937 - 1940
  Supervisor, Department of Public Assistance, Philadelphia, PA
1940 - 1947
  Caseworker; Supervisor: Director of Children's Institutions, Children's Aid Society
1942 - 1944   Fordham University School of Social Service
1947     A.B., New School for Social Research
1947 - 1948   Assistant Child Care Consultant, Welfare Council of New York City
1948 - 1951   Consultant on Correction and Delinquency, Welfare Council of New York City
1949 - 1960   Part-time member of Faculty, New York University Graduate School of Public Administration and Social Service
1950   M.A., Sociology, Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, New School for Social Research
1951 - 1954   Consultant to Child-Care Planning Board, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies of New York
1953 - 1954
  United Nations Advisor and Chief of Training in Social Welfare to the Government of Pakistan
1954 - 1956
  Executive Secretary, New York City Commission for the Foster Care of Children
1955   Ph.D., University of Dacca, East Pakistan
1955 - 1958
  Director, Bureau of Child Welfare, Department of Welfare, New York City
  Visiting Associate Professor, Fordham University Graduate Institute of Mission Studies, Summer Session
1957 -1985   Senior Vice President of the Board, Northside Center for Child Development
1958 - 1959   First Deputy Commissioner of Welfare, New York City
1959 - 1965   Commissioner of Welfare, New York City.  Appointed by Mayor Robert F. Wager.
1962   Participant, Chief, United States Delegation to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Far East Seminar, Bangkok, Thailand.  Designated by Secretary of State Rusk.
1962 - 1964   Consultant on Pakistan, The Asia Foundation.
  LLD, Tuskegee Institute
1963 - 1964   Member, President's Commission on Narcotics and Drug Abuse.  Appointed by John F. Kennedy.
1964   LLD, Fordham University
1964 - 1965 
  Vice Chairman, Mayor's Anti-Poverty Council and Anti-Poverty Operations Board.  Appointed by Mayor Lindsay.
1965   Short-term Consultant, Pakistan
1965 - 1967   Professor and Associate Dean, Hunter College School of SocialWork, City University of New York
1966   Chairman, Mayor's Anti-Poverty Council and Anti-Poverty Operations Board.  Appointed by Mayor Lindsay from February to October.
1966 - 1968   Member, State Advisory Committee to the Guidance Center for Women. Appointed by Governor Rockefeller.
1966 - 1968   Chairman, Demonstration and Research Advisory Committee, the Children's Bureau H.E.W.
1966 - 1969   Lecturer, New School for Social Research, Center for Urban Affairs
1966 - 1969   Summer Faculty, Columbia University School of Social Work and Rutgers University School of Social Work
1967   L.H.D., St. Peter's College
  Research Consultant to Governor Rockefeller's Arden House Conference on Public Welfare
1967 - 1970
  Member, National Commission on Alcoholism.  Appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
1967 - 1971
  Chairman, New York City Commission for the Foster Care of Children.  Appointed by Mayor Lindsay.
1967 - 1974   Dean and Professor, Fordham University, Graduate School of Social Service
1968   Member, United States Delegation to the United Nations Conference of Ministers Responsible for Social Welfare.  Appointed by the Secretary of H.E.W., Wilbur Cohen.
  New York State Delegate, 1970 White House Conference on Children
1969   L.H.D., Howard University
1970 - 1980
  Part-Time Lecturer, Harvard University School of Public Health
  Short-term Consultant, Pakistan
1971 - 1973   Chairman, United States Agency for International Development. Member, Task Force to South Vietnam in 1967 for the Unitarian Church. Program Consultant to South Vietnam, 1971.  In 1973 visited South Vietnam for the U.S. Senate Sub-Committee on Refufees and Escapees.
1973 - 1974   Adjunct Professor, Flower Fifth Avenue Medical Center for Mental Retardation
1974 - 1976   Administrator, New York City Humane Resource Administration. Commissioner, New York City Department of Social Services.  Appointed by Mayor Abraham D. Beame.
1975   Adjunct Professor, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service
1975   Governor's Task Force on Human Services
1975 - 1988   The Greater New York Fund: Member of the Management Committee and the Long Range Planning Committee; Chair of the Service Agencies Information System, and boardmember of the Executive Committee.
1976 - 1977   Visiting Scholar, School of Social Work, Case Western Reserve University
  Senior Consultant, The New York Community Trust
1976 - 1987   Assistant Director and Vice President for Program Development and Evaluation, The New York Community Trust
1977   Education and Welfare Fellowship to Pakistan, U.S. Department of Health
1979 - 1990   Advisory Board, Brookdale Center on Aging
1980   Creation of the James R. Dumpson Chair in Child Welfare Studies, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service
1981   Chair, Professional Symposium, National Association of Social Workers
1981   Adjunct Professor, designate, James R. Dumpson Chair in Child Welfare, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service
1982 - 1983   Project Director, Fordham University Student Field Assignments in Refugee Camps in Thailand
1982 - 1987   Commission on Black Ministry, the Archdiocese of New York
1982 - 1987   Chairman, Advisory Board Department of Juvenile Justice.  Appointed by Mayor Edward I. Koch.
1982 - 1987   Chair, Citizen's Independent Committee to Monitor Implementation of the Recommendations of the Mayor's Task Force on Foster Care.  Appointed by Mayor Edward I. Koch.
1983   Chair, Advisory Council, New York State Commissioner of Social Service
1983 - 1985   President, Board of Trustees, Community Service Society of New York
1983 - 1987
  Chairman, Advisory Board Member Search Committee of City University of New York for the President of the College, Manhattan Community College
1984   Board Member and Treasurer, Associated Black Charities of New York
1984   Board Member,Welfare Research Inc.
1984   Board Member, Policy Committee and Executive Committee, Black Agency Executives
1984   Chair, New York City Emergency Alliance on Homeless Families
1984 - 2004   International Council on Social Welfare, Member of the Executive Committee.  Chair, U.S. Committee and the North American Region Executive Committee from 1987 to present.
  L.H.D., Hunter College, City University of New York
1985   Co-Chair, Program Committee, International Council on Social Welfare, Tokyo, Japan
1985 - 1988   Advisory Committee on Child Welfare, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation
  Senior Consultant and Chair, The New York Community Trust's New York Center for Policy on Aging
1987 - 1988   Chair, Subcommittee on Human Services, New York State Governor's Committee on Black Affairs
1987 - 1988   Member, Site Visit Team of the Accreditation Commission for the Council on Social Work Education
1987 - 1988   Chairman, Borough of Manhattan's Task Force on Homeless
  Member, Board of Directors, United Way New York, and Member, Committee onPlanning and Policy
  President, Board of Directors, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies
  "No Time to Lose" Conference on Black and Puerto Rican Children, New York State Department of Social Services
  Chair, Black Leadership Commission on AIDS
  Board Member, Alcoholism Council of Greater New York
1988   Member, Committee on Public Policy, United Way of America
  Administrator of Health Services and Chairman of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.  Appointed by Mayor Dinkins.
  Awarded, Keystone Awards, Special 70th Anniversary Award from the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies
1994 - 2000
  Advisory Board, North General Hospital
2000   Installed as Nana Bonsu Abadio by the Minister of Culture Nana Akuoko Sarapong of the Republic of Ghana


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