A Faithful Steward: Clinton Rogers Woodruff (1936)

woodruff.jpgA Faithful Steward: Clinton Rogers Woodruff
By S. H. Warnock (1936)

FOR THE PAST four years, the department of public welfare in the city of Philadelphia has been noted for its capable administration. Leading citizens, irrespective of political affiliations have remarked on the fairness, efficiency, and strict adherence to the merit system which have characterized this department.

The head of the, department during these years and the man to whom credit in large measure is due for its excellent record is Clinton Rogers Woodruff, a prominent Churchman and associate editor of The Living Church.

Under the law, the mayor of Philadelphia, the Hon. J. Hampton Moore, may not succeed himself in office. In January his term expired, and the mayor’s cabinet, of which Mr. Woodruff as director of the department of public welfare was a member, was dissolved.

The writer believes that the achievements of Mr. Woodruff’s administration as evidence of a Churchman’s record in public office are of considerable interest to the Church at large.

For a number of years Mr. Woodruff has been a member of the department of Christian social service in the diocese of Pennsylvania, and its chairman since 1931. For many years he has been keenly interested in social service and public welfare work and also for many years has been the head of the city’s oldest public welfare association.

It was this background of experience which induced the mayor four years ago to select him as a member of his cabinet and to assign him to the public welfare department. Throughout those four years under most difficult conditions and with political partisan feeling frequently at white heat the department under Mr. Woodruff was virtually without criticism. As citizens now are looking to the future they are characterizing his administration as being chiefly remarkable for the broad humanitarianism of its director and for his personal interest and devotion to the duties of his office.

The office is necessarily one of tremendous detail, coming into personal contact with more individuals than perhaps any other of the many departments under the mayor. One of the striking evidences of the excellence of the department’s administration was its devotion to the principle of civil service, every vacancy being filled by the selection of the individual who was number one on the civil service list.

Several other illustrations will serve to show the efficiency and the sympathy which characterized Mr. Woodruff’s administration. When he took over the office he found hundreds of men in the home for the indigent sleeping in cellars at the almshouse site. The excuse was that there was no money with Which to purchase material to equip a building already on the grounds. Within fifteen days Director Woodruff found plenty of material around the place and by using available labor in less than a month had all the men out of the cellar and in comfortable sleeping quarters—all this without one cent of expense to the city.

In another instance he found a commissary department operated by an outside party who was making a considerable profit by the sale of small articles such as cigarettes and tobacco. This was immediately stopped and with a small revolving fund the commissary was operated by the chief appointed by Mr. Woodruff and all the profits went to supply extras for the unfortunates which enabled them to make their living quarters more comfortable and nearer homelike.

Another striking reform instituted was the formation of a school for boys over 16 years of age who were committed to the house of correction for minor offenses.

Some idea of the scope of the work of the welfare department to which Mr. Woodruff gave his personal attention may be seen in the following summary: In the home for the indigent he had the responsibility of caring for an average of 2,000 men and women; in the house of correction a daily average of between 700 and 1,000, a personal assistance bureau caring for individual citizens numbering as high as 5,000 at a time, a temporary shelter for abandoned and neglected children and finding foster homes for from twenty to twenty-five of them a day; operation of a summer camp for children during July and August caring for approximately 1,800 and, in addition all year round management of forty-one city playgrounds and recreation centers with all the attending details in which the yearly attendance ran in many, many thousands.

And as the four years of this Christian public official terminate, citizens of Philadelphia today are pointing to this department as having been most efficiently and economically administered with greatly reduced appropriations, with no public service neglected, no evidence of wastefulness, and without the slightest indication of any grafting being countenanced or permitted.

The Living Church (Milwaukee), 1936, p. 1938.

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