LERA mourns the passing of President William E. Spriggs

Bill Spriggs

Thursday, June 8, 2023 

LERA Member,

Yesterday we received the sad news that William E. Spriggs, LERA’s National President, had passed away due to complications from a stroke he suffered last week.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bill’s family and his wide circle of friends and colleagues.

This last Sunday, we concluded the 2023 National LERA Meeting in Detroit.  The meeting was one of the best our Association has organized in recent memory.  The sessions, events, and activities were all exceptional and the credit goes to Bill who chaired the Meeting’s Program Committee and the Committee members who helped put together the program.  Bill personally organized three wonderful plenary sessions, each of which looked at important and interesting issues.

Bill was just installed as LERA’s National President on Saturday, after serving a year as President-Elect.

For LERA members who did not know Bill, he had a long and distinguished career as a leader in the field of Economics, both in academia and in public service.  At the time of his passing, he was a Professor of Economics at Howard University and the Chief Economist for the AFL-CIO.

In marking his death, President Biden wrote:  "Bill was a towering figure in his field, a trailblazer who challenged the field’s basic assumptions about racial discrimination in labor markets, pay equity, and worker empowerment. His work inspired countless economists, some of whom work for our Administration, to join him in the pursuit of economic justice."

Below please find a summary of Bill’s career in a note from the Provost of Howard University and a statement from President Biden on Bill’s passing.

Paul F. Clark
Past-President, LERA

June 7, 2023

Dear Howard University Community,

I am saddened to report on the recent passing of Professor William E. Spriggs, PhD.

Dr. Spriggs served as professor and former chair of the department of economics in the college of arts and sciences. An internationally-renowned economist, Dr. Spriggs was a native of Washington, D.C. and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and political science from Williams College. He then completed a Master of Arts and PhD degrees in economics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Dr. Spriggs earned the National Economics Association dissertation prize for his research focused on the accumulation of wealth by African Americans in Virginia between 1900 and 1914.

Dr. Spriggs started his academic career at North Carolina A & T State University and later joined Norfolk State University's faculty. Spriggs then served a significant part of his career in public service in various capacities. He served as the director of the National Commission for Employment Policy, senior economist of the Joint Economic Committee, and in various roles in the Clinton Administration including tenures at the U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration and the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Government Contracting and Minority Business Development. In 2005, Dr. Spriggs joined Howard University as the chair of our economics department.

Appointed by President Barack Obama, Dr. Spriggs served as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Policy at the United States Department of Labor from 2009 to 2012.

At the time of his appointment, Dr. Spriggs also served as chairman of the Healthcare Trust for UAW Retirees of the Ford Motor Company and as chairman of the UAW Retirees of the Dana Corporation Health and Welfare Trust and as vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute. Dr. Spriggs also gifted his expertise on the joint National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Public Administration’s Committee on the Fiscal Future for the United States and as senior fellow of the Community Service Society of New York. Dr. Spriggs also served on the boards of the National Employment Law Project and very briefly for the Eastern Economic Association. After significantly contributing to public service, Dr. Spriggs returned to the faculty of Howard University in 2012 where he served diligently until his recent passing.

Consistent with his lifelong commitment to service, Dr. Spriggs served as Chief Economist to the AFL-CIO and was a former president of the National Economics Association, the organization of America’s professional Black economists. The recipient of various awards and acclamations, Dr. Spriggs was the 2016 recipient of the National Academy of Social Insurance’s Robert M. Ball Award for Outstanding Achievements in Social Insurance and the 2014 NAACP Benjamin L. Hooks’ Keeper of the Flame Award.

I am grateful for Dr. Spriggs’ significant contributions to the Howard University community and selfless service to the country. The Howard University community will continue to keep the Spriggs family in our thoughts and prayers. Additional details will be shared once arrangements are announced for a memorial service.

Excellence in Truth and Service,
Anthony K. Wutoh, Ph.D., R.Ph.

Statement from the White House