Financial History Issue 118 (Summer 2016) | Page 27

Federal Reserve 50 years ago, Andrew Brimmer broke the color barrier at the Fed By Gregory DL Morris As voters consider the possibility of the first black President in US history being succeeded by the first woman President in US history, that socio-political change would reflect a similar series of changes that took place on the Federal Reserve board decades earlier. Fifty years ago, Andrew Brimmer became the first black member of the Fed’s Board of Governors. He served until 1974. Four years later, Nancy H. Teeters, previously chief economist for the House Budget Committee, became the first woman to serve on the Fed board. In Brimmer’s brief eight and a half years on the board, he became known as an expert on international monetary policy, according to the Fed’s official biography. From the start he joined other tightmoney members on the board in supporting a gradual increase in interest rates to fight inflation. He was also a man of perspicacity. When Congress raised taxes and cut spending to curb inflation, he was one of the first board members to call for the reduction of interest rates. In later years, he used his position on the board to draw attention to the economic plight of black Americans.  Brimmer left the Fed before the end of his 14-year term to join the faculty of Harvard Business School. He taught there for two years before founding his own consulting firm, Brimmer & Company. From 1995 to 1997, Brimmer led the District of Columbia financial control board, which Congress created to manage the city’s troubled finances. His daughter, Esther Brimmer, is a professor of international affairs at George Washington University in DC. Bettmann The Federal Reserve Board with Andrew Brimmer (back row, second from right), 1970.