Professor Emeritus G. Coleman Woodbury, age 91, passed away on August 27, 1994 after a long and very distinguished career as a teacher, researcher, and activist in planning, housing, and urban problems.
Professor Woodbury was a Northwestern University Ph.D. and Rhodes Scholar. As a student of the pioneering land economist Richard Ely, Professor Woodbury became interested in housing, and in 1931 became Executive Secretary of the Illinois Housing Commission. The work of that commission led to legislation enabling Illinois cities to establish housing authorities to build housing for low income persons.
In 1933 he became Associate Director of the National Association of Housing Officials, and joined a group of distinguished housing reformers who worked to bring about federal funding for low income housing. Professor Woodbury was one of the three-person team that drafted the legislation that established the nation's public housing program (Housing Act of 1937). He was also a member of the first advisory counsel to the Federal Housing Administration.
Subsequently, he worked with the National Resources Planning Board, and during World War II served as Assistant Administrator of the National Housing Agency, which facilitated construction of housing to support the war effort.
From 1948 to 1951 Professor Woodbury directed the Urban Development Study producing an influential and critical two-volume evaluation of the nation's urban problems and approaches for dealing with them. This study became a classic in the field of urban problems and city planning.
After World War II Woodbury came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he remained, except for three years as Charles D. Norton Professor of Regional Planning at Harvard. Initially in Political Science, he continued the seminar established by John M. Gaus. He became chairman of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning when it was established in 1962. His search for an appropriate role for government in dealing with housing and other urban problems was the focus of his teaching. His wide experience and narrative style gave professional students a clear awareness of the nature of city politics.
In 1966 President Johnson appointed Woodbury to the National Committee on Urban Problems, chaired by Senator Paul Douglas. It studied reforms in low-income housing programs, zoning and other land-use controls in building and housing codes, and taxes affecting housing. Its 1968 report,
Building the American City, made a number of bold recommendations for dealing with problems of poverty and race in metropolitan areas. Woodbury was called by Lloyd Rodwin of MIT "one of the ablest and most respected of this country's housing and planning experts." He was an unusually effective, applied academic in the Progressive tradition of the Midwest.
--Excerpted from: "On the Death of Emeritus Professor G. Coleman Woodbury: Memorial Resolution of the Faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison." (University of Wisconsin-Madison Faculty Document 1108, 6 February 1995)