NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Charles Howard, PhD
Charles Howard

Pioneering Contributions

In 1983, Charles Howard, PhD, was one of three founding members of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Black Caucus, whose mission was to expand professional opportunities for African-American social workers. The Caucus went on to help elevate the cause of combating racism within the association’s agenda. The Caucus helped develop and implement NASW’s Affirmative Action Plan and led the movement to replace the designation of “Negro” with “Black” within the social work community.

As the first minority caucus in NASW, the Black Caucus was the template for future minority caucuses including the Asian, Latino, and Native American Caucuses. These four minority groups were recognized by the Board of Directors of NASW and later incorporated into NASW as National Committee on Minority Affairs (NCOMA). Based on their advocacy, the Black Caucus membership grew significantly to more than 6,000 members prior to the creation of NCOMA.

NASW continued to implement many of the programs that the Black Caucus had produced, most notably the Verne L. Lyons Scholarship program. Mr. Lyons was a staff member and Director of the NASW National Office’s health care initiative; whose goal was to aid in the training of future African-American professional social workers for health care careers in the African-American community. Howard had the honor of being appointed the first Chair of the Lyons Scholarship Fund Committee, which continues to award scholarships today.

Career Highlights

Howard has spent his career of more than 37 years working to provide residents of Metropolitan Washington and Central New Jersey who have substance abuse problems and mental health challenges with affordable and stable housing. His affiliation with NASW began as the appointed MSW student representative from Howard University to the National Board of Directors in 1978. After graduation, his first job was working for the city of Alexandria, Virginia as a Psychiatric Social Worker, creating a model for mental health services and housing. For his outstanding work in that position, he was recognized with a Citation by President Ronald Reagan. Later Howard went on to be appointed Program Director for the Center for Community Development of Prince George’s County, Maryland where he helped to develop a new group home model. For his outstanding service in this role, Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland praised Howard and gave him a Congressional Citation. 

Howard spent part of his career in behavioral health as the Alliance Drug Coordinator in Middlesex County, New Jersey. He was recognized by county officials and Governor James McGreevy for his work in helping to implement several helpful programs. Because of his achievements in New Jersey, he was appointed as the BSW Coordinator at Rutgers University School of Social Work in 1994. He has subsequently held other teaching positions throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia. Howard served as the liaison for the U.S. Federal Review of the District of Columbia’s Child Welfare System working with D.C. Child and Family Services. In this position, he worked closely with future D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and City Councilman Tommy Wells. In 2003, Howard became Executive Director of TRICO, a mental health agency in Southern Maryland. 

In 2008, he was invited to link with Howard University's E. Franklin Frazier Center for Social Work Research as a Research Associate for Special Populations. He helped to raise the profile of the National Network for Social Work Managers, raising awareness for the role that social work professionals play in administration and management around the world. Also, at that time he began CR Howard and Associates, a consulting practice specializing in program evaluation, problem solving, and strategic planning for agencies. His vision is to make sure individuals and communities have access to programs that enhance their quality of life linking them with existing resources and services. Howard was on the Maryland Chapter Board of Directors from 2007-2012 as a Representative of the Southern Maryland Branch. He recently served as the President of the Maryland Chapter, a term which lasted until 2018. 

Biographic Data

He grew up in rural Indiana in a family of nine. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Purdue University in 1974, his MSW from Howard University in 1980, and his PhD from Union Institute and University in 2000. He was in the United States Air Force and served from 1974-78 as an Air Operations Specialist receiving an Honorable discharge. Howard is married to Dr. Saadia J. Griffith-Howard, MD and has two children, Justina and Zenobia.

Significant Achievements and Awards

  • Presidential Citation by President Ronald Reagan;
  • Congressional Citation by Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland;
  • Certificate of Achievement, Rutgers University School of Social Work, Center for Strategic Planning, Urban Community Leadership program, Camden, New Jersey June 1994;
  • Certifcate of Completion, Professional Development Training – the Service Learning Model, Department of Urban Affairs, Social Science & Social Work, University of the District of Columbia, April 2004;
  • Certifcate of Completion, Addictions Recovery program, Center of Alcohol & Drug Studies Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, July 2009; and,
  • Mentored a foster child through graduation from University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2010.  

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.