James D. Hodgson, the former secretary of Labor under President Richard Nixon, died Nov. 28 at his home in Malibu due to complications from hip surgery, his family announced. He was 96.
As secretary Hodgson helped navigate the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law, according to the Los Angeles Times. He also served as director of industrial relations at Lockheed Aircraft Co., working there for nearly three decades. He was appointed by President Nixon as undersecretary of Labor in 1969 and then secretary of Labor in 1970. From 1974 to 1977, he served as ambassador to Japan under President Gerald Ford.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis issued a statement Monday after news of Hodgson’s death spread.
“Under his leadership, the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon. ‘Safety was extremely important in aircraft plants,’ the former Lockheed executive once said, ‘but as I went around looking at other industries, I was just appalled at the conditions I saw.’ Today, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration — the agency he envisioned and built – employs more than 2,200 people and strives to keep nearly 8 million U.S. workplaces safe and healthy through setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance."
James Day Hodgson was born Dec. 3, 1915, in Dawson, Minn., to a lumber dealer and his wife, according to the Times. In 1938 he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, then moved to California. He broke into the aerospace industry in 1941 with Lockheed as a personnel clerk at their Burbank office. In 1943 he married his wife Maria, whom he is survived by as well as two children.
Hodgson served three years in the Navy in the Pacific as a combat intelligence officer before returning to Lockheed, where he was “known as a man of integrity,” according to the Times.