Louis H. Towley (1904-1959): Public Welfare Administrator and Professor of Social Work
Introduction: Louis Towley held a number of administrative and supervisory positions in the field of public welfare in Minnesota during the 1930s and early 1940s. Towley’s work centered primarily on policy and procedural development by the state agencies that administered and integrated a program of public welfare services. After holding faculty positions at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work and the University of Minnesota in 1944 and 1945, Towley received a faculty appointment at George Warren Brown School in 1946, where he taught until his death in 1959.
Career: Louis H. Towley was born in 1904. He attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota and the University of Minnesota, working towards degrees in comparative literature and 18th century drama. In 1934, after a period of teaching and working for local newspapers, Towley entered the field of public welfare in Minnesota. He held various positions, including publicity director of the Minnesota Civil Works Administration and Emergency Relief Administration (1934), where he also served as complaint correspondent and supervisor of correspondence and referrals. From 1936 to 1937, he was special assistant to the director of coordinated field services for the Minnesota Board of Control. From 1937 to 1942, Towley served as assistant to the director of public welfare assistance in the Minnesota Division of Social Welfare and, just prior to World War II, he was made head of the Bureau of Procedures and Systems for the Minnesota Division of Social Welfare.
The war years made it necessary for Division of Social Welfare staff who did not go into military service to shift from one job to another and to undertake multiple responsibilities. From 1942 until the fall of 1946, Towley was at one time or another acting chief of public assistance, supervisor of the field staff, supervisor of the Bureau of Procedures and Systems, and special assistant to the director of social welfare. Towley’s work always centered primarily on policy and procedural development by the state agencies that administered and integrated a program of public welfare services.
In the spring of 1944, Towley taught a seminar in the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota, where he had previously lectured to various classes in social work. From September, 1944, to June, 1945, he was a visiting professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. He was made a full professor of social work at the school in 1946, an appointment he held until his death in 1959.
Editor’s. Note: Below is a letter from Louis Towley to Mr. B. E. Youndahl, Dean George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University describing his work experience. Following that is a list of his appointments, associations and publications already in the files of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work
Mr. B. E. Youndahl, Dean
George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University
St. Louis 5, Missouri
My dear Mr. Youndhal:
This to supply the information you want for your files. I did my undergraduate work at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota, and graduate work (I believe 36 quarter credits) at the University of Minnesota in comparative literature and 18th century drama. After some teaching and, later, newspaper work, I entered the field of public welfare in 1934. Various positions in that field, with approximate dates, are as follows:
Publicity director for Minnesota Civil Works Administration and Emergency Relief Administration, 1934.
Complaint correspondent, Minnesota ERA, 1934-35.
Supervisor of correspondence and referrals, same agency, 1935-36.
Special assistant to director of coordinated field service, Minnesota State Board of Control, 1936-37.
Assistant to director of public assistance, Board of Control, 1937-39
Assistant to chief, public assistance, Minnesota Division of Social Welfare, 1939-40.
Head, Bureau of Procedures and Systems, same agency, 1940-42.
The war years made it necessary for the remaining staff (those who did not get into service) to shift from one job to another and to care for several functions as staff shortage required. From 1942 to the present time (except from September, 1944 to June, 1945) I was at one time or another Acting Chief of Public Assistance, Supervisor of Field Staff, Supervisor of the Bureau of Procedures and Systems and Special Assistant to the Director of Social Welfare.
During September, 1944- June, 1945 I was visiting Professor of Social Work at George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University, St. Louis.
In the spring quarter, 1944, I taught a seminar in the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota, and at other times I have lectured to various classes in social work at that school.
At various times I have conducted institutes, study courses, or spoken at state conferences of social work in mid-western states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota– on several occasions for a few of such groups. Demands for such service are greater than one has time for, but spring plans call for institutes at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Nebraska.
I have been active in the Minnesota State Conference of Social Work for a number of years, in various capacities and on numerous committees.
I have been on the program of the National Conference on Social Work a number of times for different sections, have served on the Public Welfare Section Committee, and this year am chairman of that section, as well as a member of the Time and Place Committee.
I am a member of the American Public Welfare Association and have been on the program of that group’s meetings.
I have been a member of the board of Social Work Publicity Council (now the National Publicity Council for Health and Welfare) and once did some special committee work for them.
I am a member of the American Association of Social Workers and am a past vice-chairman and chairman of the Twin City Chapter of AASW. Committee work for that organization is always heavy.
My published writing is mainly professional and confined to magazines and pamphlets issued under professional auspices. For the past year and a half, and at present, my writing is confined mostly to completion of a manuscript undertaken with the help of a fellowship stemming out of a Rockefeller Foundation Grant to the University of Minnesota. (I believe a partial list of my published materials is in your files of correspondence for the summer of 1944. It omits some non-professional items, but I believe includes what is pertinent.)
I if I can supply you with additional information, please let me know.
Bibliography– Louis Towley
“Uprooting” Prairie Schooner, Vol. IX, No. 4, Fall, 1935
“Government Cow” Survey Graphic. Vol. XXV, No. 12, December, 1936
———————– Reprinted in anthology, Adventures in Modern Literature, Stauffer and Cunningham. Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1939
“High Heels” A one-act play. Social Work Publicity Council New York. 1937
“Institution Libraries in Minnesota” Survey Midmonthly, Vol. LXXIV, No. 10. October, 1938
“Random Cogitations” Survey Midmonthly, Vol. LXXV, No. 6. June, 1939
“Trends Among the Public Welfare Agencies” (Symposium) Channels, Vol. XVI, No. 8. June-July, 1939.
“Casual Notes” Survey Midmonthly, Vol. LXXV, No. 9. September, 1939.
“Critic on the Hearth” Channels, Vol. XVII, No. 6. April, 1940
Biographical note in “This Moth’s Authors” Ibid.
“I Disagree with All You Say–” Survey Midmonthly, Vol. LXXVI, No. 7 July, 1940
“On the Nose” Survey Midmonthly, Vol. LXXVI, No. 9. September, 1940.
“Public Welfare’s Untold Story” Channels, Vol. XVII, No. 2. October- November, 1940.
“Accent on Service” Public Welfare News, American Public Welfare Association, Vol. VIII, No. 10. October, 1940
“Toast and Hor d’oeuvers” Survey Midmonthly, Vol. LXXVII, No. 3 March, 1941
Social Action and Professional Integrity. American Public Welfare Association. (Pamphlet) Chicago, 1941.
“All This and Heaven Help Us, Too” Survey Midmonthly, Vol. LXXVII, No. 2. February, 1941)
“The Role of the Public Assistance Agency in Family Security” Bulletin of Iowa Association for Social Welfare. May, 1942
“On the Other Hand” Public Welfare, American Public Welfare Association. Vol. 1, No. 6. June, 1943
“Screening Out the Potential Psychiatric Case for Selective Service– a Memorandum” Public Welfare, Vol. 1, No. 11 November, 1943
“Personnel is Human” Survey Midmonthly, Vol. LXXX, No. 10. October, 1944
“Why Social Legislation is Disliked” Wisconsin Welfare, Vol. VIII, No. 1. February, 1949.
“Memorandum on Child Welfare Research” Child Welfare, Vol. XXVIII. December, 1949.
In addition to the above items, Mr. Towley has written, in whole or in substantial part, a considerable volume of material for agencies where he was employed or as a committee member for organizations or agencies. The following suggest the range and type of this material: writing and editing, for ten years, a state public welfare agency’s monthly publication for board members and legislators.
Pamphlets and leaflets on social work and on volunteers in social work.
State public welfare agency annual and biennial reports, policy manuals, interim reports to legislative committees
Drafts of Legislative proposals
Analysis of court decisions in public welfare
Analysis of public welfare legislation
Check-list and summary of these at this school, 1948-49-50
Other items of a casual or fugitive nature not here included are:
numerous book reviews and criticism in newspapers and magazines at various times over the past 25-year period
music criticism, program notes, pamphlets on chamber music
country weekly newspaper column
contributions to various symposium, etc
critical editing for authors and publishers of three books
Professional Institutes, Papers and Addresses
This phrase of Mr. Towley’s experience is included here since a good part of social work’s staff development and community planning is done in institute study groups and state conferences. The following is a list of the major work done by Mr. Towley in this respect
Institutes, varying in length from several days to a week: Minnesota State Conference of Social Work, three occasions; University of Minnesota, one; Wisconsin Welfare Council, two; University of Wisconsin, one; Kansas Welfare Conference, two; Ohio conference, one; Illinois welfare conference, two; Iowa welfare conference, one; Oklahoma state welfare department, child welfare division, one; Missouri Association for Social Welfare, two; Mid-West Area of American Red Cross, one; Lutheran Welfare Conference of America, one.
Professional papers and addresses before major groups:
National Conference of Social Work, ten
Wisconsin Welfare Council, three
Minnesota Conference of Social Work, three
University of Wisconsin, one
University of Chicago, ne
Illinois welfare conference, one
Iowa welfare conference, three
North Dakota welfare conference, one
South Dakota welfare conference, one
Missouri Association for Social Welfare, two
American Public Welfare Association, mid-thirties region, two
In addition to these, papers and addresses before non-professional groups on social work subjects in a considerable number perhaps several times above. The organizations requesting these services varied widely from a state dietetic association to a state ophthalmologist society, from a group of women lawyers to a chamber music society and social agency annual meetings.
Added to this might be mentioned teaching a one-quarter seminar on The Philosophy of Social Work in the Graduate School of the University of Minnesota in the spring of 1944; and occasional lectures to social work classes at that university over a period of several years. During the academic year 1944-45, he was visiting professor of social work at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University.
Organizations, Boards, Committees, and Related Activity
The following is a partial list of major responsibilities given to Mr. Towley beyond the specific responsibilities of his job position during the past dozen years or more:
Chairman of Public Welfare Administration Section, National Conference of Social Work, 1946. Membership of that section committee, three year Member of its Time and Place committee several years.
Member of Board, National Publicity Council for Health and Welfare, several years in 1940’s. Member special committee of that council.
Past Chairman and vice-chairman, Twin City Chapter, American Association of Social Workers. Member editorial committee of St. Louis Chapter.
Member and chairman of various committees of Minnesota State Conference of Social Work over ten-year period.
Member of planning and consulting committees several research projects carried out with grants from foundations.
At the present time, member of board, St. Louis Council for Parent Education; and above AASW committee.
Present committee assignments in the School, these being part of the job responsibility: curriculum, research, editorial, social welfare organization, various group thesis projects, and chairmanship of a number of individual thesis committees. Secretary of School faculty.
Member of committee on public welfare teaching materials, American Association of Schools of Social Work.
Source: Louis Towley Papers. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Social Welfare History Archives. Minneapolis, MN. More information is available at: https://www.lib.umn.edu/swha