|7th Chairman of the Federal Reserve|
November 15, 1934 – February 3, 1948
|Preceded by||Eugene Black|
|Succeeded by||Thomas McCabe|
|Born||September 9, 1890|
Logan, Utah, U.S.
|Died||December 18, 1977 (aged 87)|
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Eccles was known during his lifetime chiefly as having been the Chairman of the Federal Reserve under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He has been remembered for having anticipated and supporting the theories of John Maynard Keynes relative to "inadequate aggregate spending" in the economy which appeared during his tenure. As Eccles wrote in his memoir Beckoning Frontiers (1951):
As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption, mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth ... to provide men with buying power. ... Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. ... The other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped.
Born in Logan, Utah to David and Ellen (Stoddard) Eccles, he was educated at public schools of Baker, Oregon and attended Brigham Young College and served a Latter-day Saint mission to Scotland. After his mission, while working in a family enterprise in Blacksmith Fork Canyon, he learned of the untimely death of his father, David Eccles. With great skill and tenacity, he was able to reorganize and consolidate the assets of his father's industrial conglomerate and banking network. Eccles expanded the banking interests into a large western chain of banks called Eccles-Browning Affiliated Banks. He was a millionaire by age 22. The company withstood several bank runs during the Great Depression and, as a leading banker, Eccles became involved with the creation of the Emergency Banking Act of 1933 and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In 1913, he married the former May Campbell Young. The couple did not have a happy marriage, caused partly by Eccles' lack of attention towards her, and although they were legally married 35 years until their divorce in 1948, they separated soon after the marriage and lived largely separate lives.
After a brief stint at the Treasury Department and with the support of treasury secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Eccles was appointed by President Roosevelt as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Eccles was reappointed chair in 1936, 1940, and 1944 and served until 1948. In February 1944, Roosevelt appointed Eccles for another 14-year term on the board and Eccles stayed on the board until 1951, when he resigned a few months after the 1951 Accord. Eccles had also participated in post-World War II Bretton Woods negotiations that created the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Eccles retired to Utah in 1951 to run his companies and write his memoirs, titled Beckoning Frontiers: Public and Personal Recollections. He further consolidated industrial and family assets, finally organizing a series of foundations representing assets that he had managed for various family members. These foundations have served Utah and the Intermountain West in support of educational, artistic, humanitarian, and scientific activities. He died in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1977 and was entombed in the Larkin Sunset Lawn Mausoleum.
Eccles was and is seen as an early proponent of demand stimulus projects to fend off the ravages of the Great Depression. Eccles was famously rebuked by Congresswoman Jessie Sumner (R, IL) during a House of Representatives hearing on the increasingly liberal policies of the Roosevelt administration and the Federal Reserve, when she said, "you just love socialism." He became known as a defender of Keynesian ideas, though his ideas predated Keynes' The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936). In that respect, he is considered by some to have seen monetary policy having secondary importance and that as a result he allowed the Federal Reserve to be sublimated to the interests of the Treasury. In this view, the Federal Reserve after 1935 acquired new instruments to command monetary policy, but it did not change its behavior significantly. Further, his defense of the Federal Reserve-Treasury accord in 1951 is sometimes seen as a reversal of his previous policy stances.
The Eccles Building that houses the headquarters of the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C. was named after Eccles in 1982. The naming was a component of the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act lead-sponsored by Senator Jake Garn (R-UT) and Congressman Fernand St. Germain (D, RI).
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| Chair of the Federal Reserve