In Memoriam: William Edwards Spriggs, 1955-2023

William Spriggs, a professor of economics at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and the chief economist for the AFL-CIO, died on June 6 in Reston, Virginia, after suffering a stroke. He was 68 years old.

The son of a Tuskegee Airman, Dr. Spriggs was a native of Washington, D.C. He was a graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he double majored in economics and political science. He held a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was the only Black graduate student in the economics department at the university at that time.

Dr. Spriggs began his academic career teaching at North Carolina A&T State University and then at Norfolk State University in Virginia. In 2005, Dr. Spriggs joined the faculty at Howard University, where he chaired the economics department until 2009. He served as assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Labor during the Obama administration. He returned to Howard University and was named chief economist at the AFL-CIO in 2012.

Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO said that Dr. Sprigss was “a dedicated labor advocate, professor, and champion for working people, who leaves behind a lasting legacy. Bill believed in economic justice, he knew that for too long, low-income and minority communities had been forgotten and neglected by our financial system. And it was his mission to strive for a fairer, more equitable economy.”

In a statement released by the White House, President Biden said “Bill was a towering figure in his field, a trailblazer who challenged the field’s basic assumptions about racial discrimination in labor markets, pay equity, and worker empowerment.”

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  1. Condolences to the Spriggs family for their loss. Dr. Spriggs intellectual, academic and social contributions definitely be missed. His contributions to the field of economics and its relationship to Black America was definitely appreciated. He will be missed on numerous levels. RIP Dr. Spriggs.

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