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Currents - Nov./Dec. 2012 - In Memoriam James Dumpson
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In Memoriam

James Russell Dumpson, PhD

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 has 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 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 includes 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 has held cabinet and advisory 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 has been a continuing priority of Dr. Dumpson’s work as a government official, mayoral advisor, and academic.

He has 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, supporting research, funding programs, mentoring a new generation of program officers and starting the New York Center for Policy on Aging.

Dr. Dumpson has a distinguished record of publications, his numerous awards include 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. Recently, he was awarded “The Living Legacy Award” at the celebration of Cheyney University’s 175th anniversary.

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 Service.

Dr. Alma J. Carten has a book contract with NASW Press to prepare a manuscript covering Dr. Dumpson’s contributions to the field and the profession through the lens of papers from the Dumpson Collection that is housed in the Archival Holdings of Fordham University, entitled Reflections on the American Social Welfare State: The Collected Papers of James R. Dumpson, 1930-1996.


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