Our Founder

Robert L. Woodson, Sr. was born in Philadelphia in 1937. His father died soon after, and Bob and his four siblings were raised by his mother. He dropped out of high school and joined the Air Force in 1954, and earned his GED while serving. Bob earned a BS in Mathematics from Cheyney University in 1962 and then a Masters of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania in 1965. 

Bob Woodson and Bayard Rustin (left side) with two other civil rights activists in the 1960s.

In the 1960s, Bob became active in the civil rights movement and in community development efforts. From 1971-1973, he served as the director of the Administration of Justice Division for the National Urban League in New York City, developing strategies for reducing crime and strengthening community institutions. From 1974-1981, he was a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he crystalized his ideas of neighborhood empowerment while directing the Neighborhood Revitalization Project in Washington, D.C.

Bob, members of the Center’s Resident Management Leaders program, and Rep. Jack Kemp in the 1980s.

In 1981, armed only with a $25,000 grant and the knowledge he had accumulated from two decades in the civil rights movement about the real problems facing communities across the nation, Bob founded his National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise in Washington, D.C. As a tribute to its president and founder, the Center was re-christened The Woodson Center in 2016.

Click here to visit the Woodson Center website and see more about our founding institution.

Throughout its nearly 40-year history, the Center has worked to bring recognition, training, and funding to grassroots leaders and organizations working to confront the problems facing their communities and heal their neighborhoods with proven, sustainable solutions. Over the past four decades, the Center has brought training and technical assistance to more than 2600 leaders of faith-based and community organizations in 39 states and helped them attain more than 10 times the funding expended by the Center.

You can find out more about how to support the Woodson Center’s partners, activists, and achievers here!