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Remembering Andrew Brimmer, First Black On Federal Reserve’s Board

Filed by KOSU News in Business.
October 12, 2012

A life well-worth noting has caught the attention of obituary writers:

– “Andrew F. Brimmer, a Louisiana sharecropper’s son who was the first black member of the Federal Reserve Board and who led efforts to to reverse the country’s balance-of-payments deficit, died on Sunday in Washington. He was 86.” (The New York Times)

– “In nominating Brimmer as a Fed governor on Feb. 26, 1966, [President] Johnson said, ‘He is a man of wide professional experience and great personal integrity, a man of moderation whose brilliance is combined with a sense of fair play that I believe will enable him to serve with distinction.’ The lead story in the next day’s New York Times carried the headline, ‘Johnson Appoints Negro Economist to Reserve Board.’ ” (Bloomberg News)

– “Brimmer … was the first chairman of the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority — better known as the Control Board. He led the body through its earliest and most contentious period, when it was caught between the Congress that created it in 1995 expecting swift and sweeping changes, and local officials led by Mayor Marion Barry who swore to resist on most every occasion.” (The Washington Post)

– “Brimmer was the longest-serving Tuskegee [University] board member when he announced his retirement in 2010.” (The Associated Press)

Brimmer, who was on the Fed from 1966 to 1974 and went on to have a long career as a private economist, corporate board director and member of various government commissions, was a guest on Tell Me More in 2009. He told host Michel Martin that:

“I learned to read and write very early because my father taught me how to read and write. So I learned to read, to write, and to figure. I was good in arithmetic and then in mathematics, but above all, I learned how to think logically.

“I had very good teachers. Even in Louisiana, I had two teachers who were very good. One taught me literally how to read and write. I applied it. My father taught me the basics. But my English teacher taught me – in fact, she’s the one who got me interested in journalism. The other one, the principle of the school himself, he had done his masters’ degree in history. And so I learned to look at the record.

“But from then on, step by step, I was forcing it. I always had a professor, somebody who was interested in me. And I was flattered. They thought I was bright – brighter than most and that I caught on more quickly. So from then, it was just discipline and training. In other words, you have to do dichotomies, and anyone who’s pursuing a profession has to be able to get the person’s hands dirty. And that’s what I did.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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