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Picture of Whitney M. Young Jr.
Whitney M. Young Jr.

Whitney Young, an influential and powerful presidential advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, helped thousands find jobs, and developed or expanded programs that helped countless others. As executive director of the National Urban League, he was dedicated to achieving equal opportunities for blacks.

Born in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky, Young attended Kentucky State College and received a B.S. degree in 1941. Later he did graduate work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned an M.A. in social work from the University of Minnesota in 1947.

During the next six years he worked for the National Urban League in St. Paul, Minn., and Omaha, Neb., as director of industrial relations and vocational guidance. In 1954 he became dean of Atlanta University School of Social Work.

Young became the League's executive director in 1961. He bridged the gap between the white establishment and the urban poor by encouraging financial support from the government and corporate world. Young helped thousands of blacks find jobs, and developed or expanded new and existing programs in education, housing, voter registration, and family counseling.

Young served on several presidential commissions in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He was also a prominent lecturer, author of several articles, and a book, To Be Equal, published in 1964.

In 1969, President Johnson awarded Young the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Young died in 1971 while attending a conference in Lagos, Nigeria. A postal stamp was issued in his honor in 1981.

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