Establishing Social Security

An Alum

Did Edwin Witte (as in Witte Hall) really help establish social security?

Abe

Indeed he did! Edwin Witte 1909, PhD1927 was one of the leading economists of his day. A protégé of John Commons (who only has a room in the University Club named after him), Witte spent several years working for Wisconsin’s Legislative Reference Library before joining the UW faculty. He helped to draft a series of state laws, including ones involving workers’ rights and social insurance. After Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, Witte went to Washington, DC, to serve as executive director of the committee drafting the Social Security Act of 1935. Witte’s friend Arthur Altmeyer 1914, MA1920, PhD1931 was the program’s chief from 1936 to 1955. Witte returned to Madison and chaired the UW’s economics department until 1957. His colleague across the way, Frederic Ogg, was a political science professor at the UW from 1914 to 1951; that’s the subject Witte’s grandson John ’68 taught at the UW from 1977 to 2012.