September 3rd – 4th, 2014
Welcome dinner Tuesday, September 2
Marriner S. Eccles
Father of the Modern Federal Reserve
Marriner Stoddard Eccles was a rare combination in the economic life of our nation: he was both a major American entrepreneur in the Western United States, whose businesses ranged from banking and construction to sugar and lumber, and an insightful policy maker who radically reformed the governance of the Federal Reserve System. He led the Federal Reserve through depression and war and playing a major role in some of the most significant economic policy decisions of the last century. Few people in our history have so thoroughly combined the practical and the political, and had careers of such consequence in both the private and public arenas.
Born and raised in Logan, Utah, Eccles was the son of pioneering Utah industrialist David Eccles and his wife, Ellen Stoddard Eccles. He left home at age 19 to serve a mission in Scotland for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having completed just three years of high school, which would be the sum total of his formal education. He was just 22 years old when the sudden death of his father in 1912 left him the care of his mother, eight younger siblings and the family’s vast business interests. He would succeed on all fronts, ultimately coming not merely to run but to greatly expand his father’s business empire, and leading the creation of the First Security Corporation, the first multi-state bank holding company, in 1928.
It was from this vantage point of a young, multi-millionaire businessman that Eccles developed the views that would ultimately prove fundamental to the conduct of economic policy during the crisis of the Great Depression. Seeing the devastation of the depression on his own businesses, he struggled to understand the economic collapse and formed theories, considered radical at the time as to how the government’s role should be shaped to help rectify the problems.
In 1933, Eccles testified before the senate Finance Committee about ideas to promote economic recovery. His views caught the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He agreed to come to Washington to lend his active and creative mind to the task of working the country out of the depression. Named first as Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury in January 1934, he was appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve later that year, a position he held until 1948.
As Chairman, he crafted the nation’s monetary policy and keystones of the U.S. financial system that remain today, including a dramatically reformed Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Federal Housing Act (FHA). In 1944, Eccles helped craft agreements at the Bretton Woods Conference that created the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He precipitated the Treasury-Fed Accord, a critical element of the Federal Reserve’s independence in 1951, before returning home to the West and resuming his successful career as a banker, businessman and philanthropist.
He continued to advise the Federal government with his independent thought, wisdom and foresight until his death in 1977 at age 87. This building was named in his honor in 1982.
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