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 Commission (EEOC).

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.