Betty Southard Murphy

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Betty Southard Murphy received her B. A. degree from the Ohio State University and her J. D. degree from the Washington College of Law at American University. From 1968 to 1974 she was a partner in the law firm of Wilson, Woods, and Villalon in Washington, D. C. She served as Adjunct Professor of Law at American University from 1972 to 1979. In 1974 she was appointed Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor, a position she held until 1975, whereupon she was appointed chairman of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). During her chairmanship the NLRB increased in productivity by thirty percent and issued a record number of cases in the shortest period of time in the history of the agency. She served on the NLRB until 1979, and in 1980 became a partner in Baker and Hostetler LLP, a national law firm. She has to date tried cases and appeared in Federal and State Courts in more than 20 states, in 9 U. S. Courts of Appeals, and in the U. S. Supreme Court. She has had five additional Presidential appointments to special commissions, including the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U. S. Constitution and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. In 1997 she became the first lawyer in private practice to be elected to the National Academy of Human Resources. She is the only person to have served as both Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board and as Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor.

About the Transcript

In her interview Betty Southard Murphy begins by describing her childhood, family, and education. She then discusses her experiences in attempting to secure employment after graduating from law school and her first cases for the National Labor Relations Board and her work with the law firm of Robert and McInnis. She describes the work she did for the Paperworkers Union (PACE), which involved a large amount of work with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Many of the issues stemming from the cases they handled in the paper industry spilled over and facilitated settlements in other cases relating to discrimination in other industries. She also describes various disputes she had handled regarding womens’ rights. She then discusses her seven Presidential appointments, which include positions as Administrator of Wage and Hour at the U. S. Department of Labor and as the only woman ever appointed Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, which were her only two paid appointments. She also describes her appointment to the Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution of the United States and talks about her belief in the importance of womens’ rights and the challenges faced by women lawyers.