Millie Charles, who founded social work school, dies

Local News

Southern University at New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Millie Charles, who founded the social work department at Southern University at New Orleans which now bears her name, has died. She was 97.

The school announced her death Monday. No cause of death was given.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Dr. Millie Charles a relentless crusader for justice and the founder and leader of the School of Social Work at Southern University at New Orleans,” the university said in a statement. “Dr. Charles started at the School of Social Work as the dean and only teacher and today there are 13 faculty members who work in a building bearing Charles’ name.”

Charles started her career as a teacher in northern Louisiana, according to The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate but she eventually decided to switch careers to social work where she felt she could make more of an impact.

Charles started at Southern as a one-woman social work department in 1965, according to a 2018 news release from the university announcing the dedication of the social work building in her name.

Charles was “practically the godmother of modern-day social workers in New Orleans,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement.

“She wore many hats — from social worker to educator to civil rights activist — and she made a difference in the lives of countless New Orleanians,” the mayor said.

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