Jack Futterman, 87, longtime Social Security official

March 27, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Jack S. Futterman, retired assistant commissioner of administration for the Social Security Administration, died Wednesday of cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. He was 87 and lived in Ellicott City.

Mr. Futterman was one of the original 2,000 employees hired in 1936 by the Social Security Board, forerunner of today's Social Security Administration.

He went to work as a statistical clerk in the agency's first headquarters in the Candler Building on East Pratt Street at Market Place, on downtown Baltimore's waterfront.

Because of the Great Depression and lack of jobs, many who applied for positions with Social Security held bachelor's and master's degrees and some had doctorates.

"All of the original people were just glad to have a job. And it was wonderful to see how people helped each other then," Mr. Futterman told The Evening Sun in a 1972 interview at the time of his retirement.

Born in New York City and raised in the Bronx, Mr. Futterman was the son of Russian immigrant parents.

After graduating from James Monroe High School, he enrolled in City College of New York. He worked his way through college, making clinical thermometers in a factory owned by his brother.

He earned his bachelor's degree in 1933 and a master's degree in education in 1934, and graduated cum laude from City College of New York, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

He moved to Baltimore thinking that he would stay a few years and move on.

"I came as a temporary clerk in 1936 at Grade GS-2 and an annual salary of $1,142," he said in the interview.

"That was about $57.50 a week, enough to court my future wife on. We used to enjoy five-course dinners at the old Longfellow Hotel [later the Park Plaza at Charles and Madison streets in Mount Vernon] for $1.35 a piece," he said.

He was married in 1942 to Marion Gilbert Charles, who died in 1992.

Mr. Futterman rose through the ranks and held numerous posts with the agency before being named assistant commissioner of administration.

Considered an expert on Social Security administration, he wrote widely on the subject and served as U.S. representative to the International Social Security Association, Inter-American Committee on Social Security and was a lecturer for several years at the Inter-American Center for Study of Social Security in Mexico City.

In recognition of his work, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare presented him its Distinguished Service Award in 1963.

At the time of Mr. Futterman's retirement, Elliot L. Richardson, then head of HEW, presented him the Secretary's Special Citation.

"Few others have contributed as widely to the program's success, and he has been one of the chief architects and practitioners of its progressive philosophy of management," Mr. Richardson said.

Except during World War II, when he served with the Navy in the Pacific Theater as a lieutenant aboard an LST, Mr. Futterman spent his entire career with the SSA.

Mr. Futterman was described in the newspaper interview as the "anchor man in a long chain of people, money, materials and management that brings 27.3 million Americans their social security checks each month."

He was the founder in 1973 and first president of the Social Security Alumni Association and, in 1989, was elected to membership in the National Academy of Social Insurance.

An avid painter, he worked in watercolors and oils and enjoyed painting harbor scenes, still lifes and landscapes, and participated in local art shows.

He was a member of the Maryland Federation of Art, Baltimore Watercolor Society, Academy of Arts in Easton, Visual Artists Alliance of Howard County, Howard County Art Guild and Laurel Art Guild.

Services were held yesterday at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

He is survived by two brothers, Julius Futterman of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Nathan Futterman of New Rochelle, N.Y.; and several nephews and nieces.

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