Herbert R. Northrup, Expert in Labor Economics and Race Relations in America,
Is Dead at 89
Herbert R. Northrup, noted scholar, labor economist, consultant and prolific author
of 35 books and 250 articles, was one of the first academics to write extensively
about race relations in the workplace. He died on October 22nd at Bryn Mawr
hospital, PA. He was 89.
The cause was a stroke said his wife, Eleanor.
At his death, Dr. Northrup was emeritus professor of management and former
Chair of the Industrial Research Unit at the Wharton School of the University
of Pennsylvania, where he taught from 1961 until his retirement in 1988.
Dr. Northrup was noted for many accomplishments and received numerous awards in
the field of Labor Economics. He was the author of the groundbreaking textbook,
“The Economics of Labor Relations”, and his many other scholarly multi-volume
works provided in-depth analyses and probing insights into race and employment
relations across the business landscape from World War II until the end of the
20th century. Dr. Northrup’s first book, “Organized Labor and the Negro”,
published in 1944, began a series of publications on this and other important
topics related to people in the workplace. He continued to publish every year
since then. Dr. Northrup’s works analyzed many aspects of employment practices
worldwide and also influenced Congressional actions affecting such areas as
anti-discrimination and labor law legislation. Dr. Northrup was also an
advisor to Secretaries of Labor James D. Hodgson during the Nixon administration
and Drew Lewis during the Reagan Administration. In addition, he worked together
with Justice Clarence Thomas 10 years prior to his nomination to the Supreme
Court when Justice Thomas was Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity
Herbert Roof Northrup was born on March 6, 1918 in a suburb of Newark, NJ.
He attended Newark Academy and received his B.A. from Duke University in 1939,
where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was one of only two scholar-athletes,
playing for three years on Duke’s championship baseball team as their starting
catcher; and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University in 1942.
After completing his studies, he became a member of the faculty at Cornell
University, and a consultant for Ebasco. Shortly and still during WWII, he
served on the Federal Government’s War Labor Board, assisting in the
availability of essential craftsmen for the war effort. After the war, Dr. Northrup
was a member of the faculty at Columbia University. Subsequently, he became
Vice-President of the Penn-Texas Corporation (now Colt Industries); was
Employee Relations Manager for General Electric Company and assumed the
position of Professor of Management at the Wharton School of the University
of Pennsylvania in 1961. He was brought to the Wharton School by Dr. George
W. Taylor and succeeded that noted economist as Chair of the school’s Industry
Department in 1964.
During his Wharton years, in addition to his academic leadership, he consulted
extensively with many "Fortune 500" companies, providing them with scholarly
research and information on numerous employment related topics. Due in part
to his extensive consulting activities, Dr. Northrup became for a time one of
the larger fund raisers at the Wharton School, and also underwrote numerous
scholarships to graduate students, many of whom continued to collaborate with
him after establishing their own careers. Dr. Northrup’s generosity and wise
counsel to his students was repaid in many ways. Immediately after announcing
his retirement in 1988, several hundred of his former students organized a
surprise retirement celebration in his honor.
Dr. Northrup’s approach to scholarship was strongly influenced by his study at
Harvard under the noted economist Dr. Sumner H. Slichter, and by the work he
contributed as a graduate student to the large study for the Swedish economist
Gunnar Myrdahl that became the ground-breaking publication, “Race Relations in
America”. It was during this time that Dr. Northrup began his own work on race
relations in business which he continued to be interested in and contribute to
until the end of his life.
Dr. Northrup met Eleanor Pearson in Detroit, a statistician with the War Labor
Board. They married in 1944 and remained together and were devoted to each other
for 63 years. He is survived by his wife as well as his 5 children, James P. of
Stamford, CT; Nancy Northrup-Black of Madison, NJ; Jonathan P. of Greenwood, IN;
David O. of Dallas, TX; Philo W. of San Jose, CA.; and 7 grandchildren.