Dr. Andrew F. Brimmer, Who broke color barrier on U.S. Federal Reserve Board Board, dies at 86

Dr. Andrew F. Brimmer, Who broke color barrier on U.S. Federal Reserve Board Board, dies at 86
By Laurence Arnold
Andrew Brimmer, an economist who became the first black member of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him in 1966, has died. He was 86.
He died on Oct. 7, his daughter, Esther Brimmer, said yesterday. No cause was given.
The son of a Louisiana sharecropper, Andrew Brimmer moved north to pursue higher education and didn’t stop until he had a Ph.D. from Harvard Business School. He worked as a staff economist in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as an assistant professor of economics before joining the federal government as a deputy assistant secretary of commerce under President John F. Kennedy.
In nominating Brimmer as a Fed governor on Feb. 26, 1966, 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.”
The Senate Banking Committee endorsed the nomination without dissent, and on March 9, in the East Room of the White House with Johnson looking on, Brimmer was sworn in by Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin Jr. With the addition of Brimmer, the seven-member Fed board had, for the first time, a majority of professional economists, according to the Times.
Fighting Inflation
During more than eight years on the Fed, Brimmer became known as an expert on international monetary policy. Early on, he supported the board’s effort to combat inflation by gradually raising interest rates. After Congress and Johnson raised taxes and trimmed spending in 1968, Brimmer was one of the first Fed governors to call for easing the rates.
In his later years on the board, he drew attention for blunt observations on the economic conditions of black Americans.
“I do feel that the economic plight of blacks is a serious matter,” he told the Times for a 1973 article. “So I bring the same economist’s tool kit to that subject as other economists bring to examine other national economic problems.”
Brimmer researched income and wage disparities between white and black Americans. His public comments on black America, according to the Times, included references to black-owned banks as “ornaments” and to the “fallacy of black capitalism.”
He told the Times that black-owned banks seemed focused on investing deposits in U.S. securities, not in their own neighborhoods. “Perhaps inadvertently,” he said, the banks “may be diverting resources from the black community into the financing of the national debt.”
DC Finance Board
Brimmer served 8 1/2 years of his 14-year term, stepping down in 1974 to join the faculty of Harvard Business School. He formed Brimmer & Co., an economic consulting firm, and wrote an economics column for Black Enterprise magazine. From 1995 to 1998, he served as the first chairman of the District of Columbia Financial Control Board, created by Congress to oversee the finances of the nation’s capital.
The Fed has had two black governors since Brimmer: Emmett Rice, nominated by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, and Roger Ferguson, nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
Ferguson said in a 2002 speech to college students that, as a teenager growing up in Washington in 1966, he followed newspaper accounts of Brimmer’s barrier-breaking appointment and, in the process, “became absolutely fascinated with economics and with this institution, the Federal Reserve.”
Rural Louisiana
Andrew Felton Brimmer Jr. was born on Sept. 13, 1926, in Newellton, a rural village of 800 in northeastern Louisiana. His father, Andrew Sr., was a sharecropper and warehouse worker, according to a 1995 Times profile.
After high school, Brimmer left the South for Seattle. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, then attended the University of Washington, where he earned an undergraduate degree in economics in 1950 and a master’s degree in 1951. He studied in India at the Delhi School of Economics and the University of Bombay as a Fulbright scholar. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard Business School in 1957.
In an interview with the Harvard Crimson in 1974, Brimmer described his journey from the South in the context of U.S. history.
“I was part of the same outward-bound stream of people — literally thousands of them — that had migrated out of the area since World War I, although interrupted by the Depression, of course,” he said. “It was Steinbeck’s dust bowl of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ — Oklahoma, Arkansas, northern Louisiana. There were very few opportunities.”
Time Teaching
Following his studies at Harvard and work at the New York Fed, Brimmer taught at Michigan State University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance and Commerce. Kennedy made him deputy assistant secretary of commerce for economic affairs, and Johnson elevated him to assistant secretary in January 1965.
In addition to his daughter, Esther, Brimmer is survived by his wife, the former Doris Scott. Esther Brimmer was appointed U.S. assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs by President Barack Obama in 2009.



Dr. Andrew F. Brimmer

Andrew Brimmer, second from right, speaks with Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin Jr., right, before his swearing-in as a governor of the Federal Reserve at the White House in Washington, on March 3, 1966. Sitting at left are Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Commerce Secretary John Connor. Photographer: Yoichi Okamoto/White House/LBJ Library


Andrew Brimmer, second from right, is sworn in as a governor of the U.S. Federal Reserve by Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin Jr., left, as his wife Doris Brimmer, daughter Esther and President Lyndon B. Johnson look on. Photographer: Robert Knudsen/LBJ Library via Bloomberg

Dr. Andrew F. Brimmer as Chairman of the Board
Tuskegee University (Tuskegee Institute)
Dr. Andrew F. Brimmer on October 16, 2010 announced his retirement as Chairman of the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees. Brimmer served as a member of the Board for 45 years – with 28 as its Chairman – making him the longest-serving Board member in the University’s 129-year history. Tuskegee alumnus retired Major General Charles E. Williams was named as Brimmer’s successor.
Brimmer was elected to the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees in 1965-66 and became Chair in 1982. The Tuskegee University School of Business and Information Science is named for him. Dr. Brimmer would appoint Dr. Benjamin F. Payton as fifth president of Tuskegee University.  After 29 years Dr. Benjamin F. Payton retired June 30, 2010.
Click image to enlarge
Tuskegee University
Andrew F. Brimmer College of Business and Information Science

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One Comment on “Dr. Andrew F. Brimmer, Who broke color barrier on U.S. Federal Reserve Board Board, dies at 86”

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