- Frederic Bachman Lieber Memorial Award (1973)
David J. Olson earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Finishing his education, he stayed in Wisconsin and became Professor Emeritus of Political Sciences, as well as the Harry Bridges Endowed Chair Emeritus in Labor Studies at the University. His research focused on urban, labor and state politics in the United States.
Olson was the co-author or editor of many books, including Black Politics: The Inevitability of Conflict, Theft of the City: Readings in Corruption in Urban America (published by Indiana Press), Commission Politics: The Processing of Racial Crisis in America, Governing the United States, and To Keep The Republic. Also, many of his articles on urban politics, state politics, political violence, seaport politics, congestion pricing, living wage campaigns, term limits, and labor politics have also been published.
Olson advised or served as a consultant to various state, county, and municipal governments, as well as community groups and the Ford Foundation. He was the recipient of the S. Sterling Munro Public Service Teaching Award in 2005, and the inaugural Distinguished Civic Educator Award in 2007 by the Washington State Senate. Olson was knighted by the King of Norway as knight of the first class, order of merit for contributions to United States-Norway scholarly exchange in 2006.