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NAFEO Nation, America’s HBCUs and PBIs, Salutes and Bids Farewell to Dr. William E. Spriggs, Its 30-Year Pro Bono Senior Economist, and America’s Quintessential Justice Economist

It is with a profound sense of loss and an attendant tanking of the stock in the Battle for American Justice that we announce the passing of Dr. William R. Spriggs, who until his death was the NAFEO pro bono Senior Economist for more than three decades. The indefatigable efforts of Dr. Spriggs substantially advanced the social justice and economic welfare efforts in America and strengthened the educational and economic foundations of all HBCUs and PBIs. He shaped policies, designed and led strategic actions, and quantified the fact that public investments in HBCIs yield the best return on higher education dollars.

Lezli Baskerville, President & CEO of NAFEO, John Pierre, Chancellor of the Southern University Law Center and Chair of the NAFEO Policy, Advocacy & Law (PALs) Presidential Work Group, and the HBCU and PBI communities, extend our deepest sympathies to Bill’s wife, Jennifer, and his son, William, who frequently attended the annual NAFEO Presidential Peer Seminar where Bill spoke, and became part of the “NAFEO Nation.”

Armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Williams College cum laude and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Bill became a Justice Economist par excellence, a champion of HBCUs, people of color, working people, and people marginalized by American systems, including economic systems, theories and approaches that kept those of least advantage as second class citizens. The majority of the policy documents NAFEO advanced and supported were influenced by his keen eye, his knowledge, and insight as the best justice economist in the world.

Dr. Spriggs served as a senior fellow at the Economic Policy Institute where he used his position, voice and passion to keep the economic plight of those of least advantage central in the discussions. From 1988 to 2004, he served as Executive Director of the National Urban League’s Institute for Opportunity and Equality, where among other duties he was editor of the State of Black America 1999, the nation’s seminal publication on the economic and social status of diverse segments of the African American community, and the opportunities to further strengthen Black America. While serving at the Urban League, Dr. Spriggs led research on pay equity that won the NUL the 2001 Winn Newman Award from the National Committee on Pay Equity. Bill represented the NUL on various boards including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Black Leadership Forum and the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation. His research and strategic thinking were so valuable that he was asked to serve on the Black Leadership Forum, a national association of the presidents and CEOs of the nation’s leading black advancement associations, even though he was not a president or CEO of a kindred association. Bill gave congressional testimony on behalf of the NUL, on how various policies would affect Black and low-income communities, and participated in the UN World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance. He contributed language adopted in the Programme of Action relating to documenting racial disparities and incorporating closing racial disparities within efforts to achieve the Copenhagen goals for World Social Development.

Bill was our dear friend and Brother, a brilliant justice economist, who used his all to level the playing fields in America, with quantifiable favorable results. Bill walked humbly through life, loved justice, and meted out mercy.

Farewell Dr. Spriggs, we thank you. We love you and we’ll see ya on the other side. Good night Sweet Prince, and bands of angels sing thee to thy rest.

With profound gratitude and appreciation,

Lezli Baskerville, Esquire
President & CEO
Work Group

John Pierre, Chancellor
Southern University Law Center
Chair, NAFEO Policy, Advocacy & Legal (PAL)


The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) is the nation’s only national membership association of all of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs). Founded in 1969, by the presidents and chancellors of HBCUs and other equal educational opportunity institutions, NAFEO is a one of a kind membership association representing the presidents and chancellors of the public, private, independent, and land-grant, two-year, four-year, graduate and professional, HBCUs and PBIs.

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