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Director Biographies

Directors 1950 - 1965

Roy Victor Peel Roy Victor Peel (1950-1953): Roy Peel was born in 1896 in Des Moines, Iowa. Service in World War I interrupted his college education; he was a second lieutenant in the Army Air Service. After the war, he completed his B.A., graduating from Augustana College in 1920. From there, Peel moved between teaching and post-graduate education, eventually earning a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1927.

While an assistant professor of government at New York University, Peel researched and wrote extensively, publishing several articles and books. By 1934, he was the director of research in public administration at NYU and had achieved the rank of full professor. In 1935, Peel began a nearly two-year research expedition to Scandinavia, planning to survey public administration in those countries. Returning to the United States in late 1936, he took a position at Indiana University.

During World War II, Peel worked for the government in a confidential civilian capacity. This tour of service included a stint as chief of the United States Information Service in Copenhagen in 1945. President Truman appointed him director of the Census Bureau in February 1950, only months before the decennial census. Peel stayed on at the Census Bureau until 1953, when he returned to the academic world. He took a position at California State University, Northridge, and taught there until his death in 1978.

Robert Wilbur Burgess Robert Wilbur Burgess (1953-1961): Born in 1887 in Newport, Rhode Island, Robert Burgess graduated from Brown University. He was a Rhodes scholar from 1908 to 1911 and received a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1914. He taught mathematics at Purdue, Cornell and Brown Universities.

During World War I, Burgess served in the Army, advancing to the rank of major; he also served in the statistics branch of the Army General Staff in Washington. He was a statistician and economist with the Western Electric Company from 1924 to 1952. He became director of the Census Bureau in 1953, overseeing the 1960 census during his tenure. He died in 1969.

Richard M. Scammon Richard M. Scammon (1961-1965): Richard Scammon, director of the Census Bureau during parts of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, was best known as an elections expert. He was born in Minnesota in 1915. He earned a degree in political science from the University of Minnesota in 1935 before receiving a master’s degree in the same subject from the University of Michigan. After doing academic work for a couple of years, Scammon enlisted in the Army during World War II, attaining the rank of captain.

After the war, Scammon served as part of the occupation forces in Germany, becoming chief of the military government’s elections and political parties office. From 1948 until 1955, he worked at the State Department as research division chief for Western Europe.

In 1955, Scammon founded the Elections Research Center, a non-profit organization that he directed for forty years until it closed in 1995. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed him director of the Census Bureau. He served at this position into the Johnson administration, until 1965.

After his time at the Census Bureau, Scammon returned to the study of elections, publishing several books, including his famed collaboration with Ben Wattenberg, The Real Majority. That book, an examination of the American electorate, warned that the Democratic Party was pursuing polices that left it in danger of losing the support of the middle class.

Scammon died in April 2001, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. A White House statement upon his death, called him "a groundbreaking analyst of American politics." After his retirement, Scammon participated in the Census Bureau's oral history program [PDF 240k].

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 05, 2022