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James D. Hodgson, at 96; Nixon’s secretary of labor

James D. Hodgson with President Nixon in 1971.

United Press International

James D. Hodgson with President Nixon in 1971.

NEW YORK — James D. Hodgson, who as President Nixon’s labor secretary in the early 1970s promoted jobs for minority workers in the building trades and safer US workplaces, died Nov. 28 at his home in Malibu, Calif. He was 96.

His family announced the death Monday.

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Mr. Hodgson (pronounced HOD-sun) was later the ambassador to Japan in the Ford administration, but for most of his career he was a behind-the-scenes negotiator for the Lockheed Aircraft Corp., hammering out labor contracts.

After landing in Washington as the deputy to Labor Secretary George P. Shultz in 1969, he remained all but unknown, as he quietly ran day-to-day ­affairs for more than a year.

But when Shultz became White House budget director in July 1970, Mr. Hodgson was thrust into the spotlight.

Early in his tenure, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 became law, greatly expanding the Labor Department’s regulatory responsibilities and its authority to oversee federal and state compliance efforts.Mr. Hodgson began the daunting tasks of identifying and polic­ing widespread toxic substances, dangerous machinery, and a host of electrical, chemical and fire hazards.

In June 1974, Nixon’s nomination of Mr. Hodgson to be ambassador to Japan was approved by the Senate. Less than two months later, Nixon resigned and Mr. Hodgson served in Tokyo for the next three years.

James Day Hodgson was born in Dawson, Minn. His father owned lumber yards. He studied sociology and anthropology at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1938.

In 1943, he married Maria Denend, who survives him. A son, Frederic, and a daughter, Nancy ­Nachman, are also among those he leaves.

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