Andrew Brimmer, a former Harvard professor, was the first black person appointed to the Federal Reserve Board. President Lyndon B. Johnson gave him the position in 1966. Brimmer was working as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce of Economic Affairs when President Johnson took notice. His appointment caused uproar on the Federal Reserve Board and in the headlines, which read, “Desire to Aid Negroes Could Make New ‘Fed’ Member More Liberal.”
The press had shined a rather racist light on the Boards’ President, William McChesney Martin Jr., who said he would resign if Brimmer joined the board. His statement caused the press to consider his ‘dislike for Negroes’ if he resigned based on Brimmer’s new position.
Brimmer is a native of Newellton, Louisiana with an education from the Washington State and the University of Washington in Seattle. His father was a Louisiana sharecropper. Despite meager upbringings, the WWII veteran earned coctorates from both M.I.T. and Harvard.
Dr. Brimmer focused on domestic spending. His goal was to persuade state businesses to slow down on foreign investments. He also encouraged foreign companies to spend their currencies in the U.S. By 1965, foreign spending had been cut in half as a result of Brimmer’s efforts.
He later became an expert of international money policy after visiting Sudan to establish a central bank. He garnered attention from a finance article written for a local journal.
Dr. Brimmer only served eight of his14 year-term on the Federal Reserve Board. He returned to Harvard Business School to work on the faculty. He started his own consulting firm, Brimmer & Company, and also took out time to study overseas in India.
Dr. Andrew Felton Brimmer, Jr. died on Sunday, October 14, 2012. He was 86 years old.