American Sociological Association

Howard P. Becker

Howard Becker

Howard Paul Becker

December 9, 1899 - June 8, 1960

Howard Paul Becker was born December 9, 1899 in New York City, the son of John Paul Becker and Letitia Dickson. For several years while Becker's father traveled for work, he and his mother lived in Ontario, Canada. Later he and his mother joined his father in Nevada for a few years; after a few years there, the family moved to Indiana where Becker and his father both worked for the Dort Motor Company.

Due to family circumstances and the many moves the family made, Becker was not able to complete his high school education. Despite the lack of formal high school training, he nonetheless demonstrated strong aptitude and was able, at age 23, to enter Northwestern University based on his performance on a special entrance examination. In 1925 he earned his A.B. degree from Northwestern, followed the next year by an M.A., also from Northwestern.

Becker spent some time traveling through Europe during his time at Northwestern and in the year after securing his M.A. In 1927 he entered the University of Chicago Department of Sociology Ph.D. program where he worked under the guidance of Robert Park.

In 1960 Howard Becker served as the 50th President of the American Sociological Association. Unfortunately, Becker died of a stroke on June 8, 1960 in Madison, Wisconsin, before the end of his term as President. His Presidential address, which had been prepared ahead of time, was read by his son, Christopher Bennett Becker, at the ASA Annual Meeting in August, 1960. The address, entitled "Normative Reactions to Normlessness", was published in December 1960 issue of American Sociological Review (ASR Vol 25 No 6, Dec 1960, pages 803-810).

Becker's professional papers are housed at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Upon his death in 1960, obituaries were published in American Sociological Review (ASR Vol 25, No 5, Oct 1960, pages 743-744) as well as the American Journal of Sociology (AJS Vol 66, No 3, Nov 1960, pages 289-290).