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Hasseltine Byrd Taylor (1905-1993)

Lecturer Emerita

Hassletine Byrd Taylor, who died on March 8, 1993, served as a lecturer in the School of Social Welfare from 1941 until her retirement in 1970. She was one of the earlier appointments of Dean Harry Cassidy, who had himself recently been appointed, in order to transform the one-year certificate program to a two-year master's program. She taught community organization, but soon took over the course “Legal Information for Social Workers” and began developing courses in law and policy that were a staple of the School's program for almost three decades. In 1944 and 1945 she chaired the program after Cassidy's return to Canada for wartime service and before Milton Chernin's tenure as dean. In 1960 she was accorded “security of employment.”

She was born Hasseltine Byrd on November 17, 1905, in the hamlet of Little Springs, Miss. Her forebears had settled the territory in the 1830s; her grandparents on both sides were leading citizens who owned the village store, the cotton gin, and the lumber mill. She was named for a Baptist evangelist who was famous on the Southern frontier. In 1910, when she was five, her parents moved some 60 miles to Baton Rouge, LA's capital, which had the advantages of a better school system, the state university and a boom in oil. She graduated from high school in 1931, at the age of 15. Then, pursuing the same profession as her piano-teacher mother, she went to Virginia Intermont College, well-known for its music curriculum and graduated with a degree in piano. She went on to spend a year at the Damrosch Institute in New York. In 1924 she returned to Baton Rouge and, at age 19, became an instructor in piano at Louisiana State University.

However, this genteel pursuit was giving way to an interest in social reform. In 1926 she earned an AB in economics at Louisiana State, and then went back to New York, to Columbia University, for an MA in sociology and economics (1927). She was recruited into the brand-new certificate program in social work at Tulane University, earning her keep at Kingsley House, the Hull House of New Orleans, by organizing groups in musical projects.

From then on, opportunities opened: her career was marked by firsts. From 1928 to 1930 she established an undergraduate program in social welfare at the University of Montana. In 1929, Dean Edith Abbott recruited her into the new PhD program of the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, which was distinguished among its peers by its involvement in academic scholarship, public welfare administration, law, and policy. Hasseltine's dissertation (1934), The Law of Guardian and Ward, soon published by the university, was a classic example of the Chicago School's notion of social work and social reform. She showed how the circumstances of guardianship and the legal doctrine of the state's interest and responsibility had changed, but the courts had not developed the administrative means to implement the new doctrine, which a proper social service could provide. She did social work in the Chicago courts; much attracted by the law, she earned a JD from the University of Chicago in 1939.

By 1933, unemployment due to the Depression had spawned emergency relief programs to supplement the traditional local relief, and in 1935 the Social Security Act became the legal foundation for the present system of public assistance and social insurance. Hasseltine worked in relief administration and became a leader in discussions of policy in the American Association of Social Workers and the Illinois League of Women Voters, which played a part in formulating state implementing-legislation. In 1937 she was called to Northwestern University to teach in a new program of social-work education.

In 1932, she had married Archer Taylor, a distinguished professor of Germanic languages at Chicago, a widower with three children. In 1939, he accepted an appointment at Berkeley and the couple moved here. Within a few months of her arrival, the California League of Women Voters sent her to testify before the legislature, and in a year she took over UCB's course in legal information from Barbara Armstrong of the law school. She developed the reading list of statute and case law that Armstrong had created, keeping it current and adding professional materials.

As a lecturer she usually taught part-time, carrying more than her share of committee assignments and participating vigorously and with great effect in faculty meetings. She was an activist: she enjoyed taking part in committees of the National Association of Social Workers and other groups. She was close to many officials of the State Department of Social Welfare as it became a national leader in the 1950s. Her approach was to combine the formal clarity of legal thinking with the human and scientific values of professional social work.

In addition to their home in the Berkeley hills, with its long library/study facing on the Bay, she and Archer, early on, bought a beautiful ranch in Napa County, where they themselves constructed a rugged, comfortable house and where generations of faculty and their children came to roam, pick walnuts, and ride the Jeep around the trails. Their children have donated the Taylor Preserve, as it is called, to the Napa County Land Trust to maintain in perpetuity.