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Paul Volcker

Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 1979-1987

Paul Volcker

Paul Adolph Volcker was born in Cape May, New Jersey, on September 5, 1927. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University in 1949, and a Master of Arts in Political Economy and Government from the Harvard University Graduate School of Public Administration in 1951. From 1951 to 1952, he was Rotary Foundation Fellow at the London School of Economics.

Volcker's experience with the Federal Reserve began when he worked as a research assistant in the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York during the summers of 1949 and 1950. He returned to New York as an economist in the Research Department in 1952, and became a Special Assistant in the Securities Department in 1955. He resigned from the Fed in 1957 to become a financial economist at Chase Manhattan Bank.

In 1962, Volcker became Director of the Office of Financial Analysis at the Department of the Treasury, and in 1963 he was appointed Deputy Undersecretary for Monetary Affairs. He again left public service in 1965, returning to Chase Manhattan as Vice President and Director of Forward Planning.

Volcker returned to the public sector in 1969, becoming Undersecretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs; he remained in this position until 1974. While serving in this position Volcker played an important role in the decisions surrounding the U.S. decision to suspend gold convertibility (the ability of private citizens to exchange currency for gold) in 1971. Acting as a moderating influence on policy, he advocated the pursuit of an international solution to national monetary problems.

During the 1974-1975 academic year, he was Senior Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Volcker is probably best known for being Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, a position to which he was named by President Jimmy Carter; he served in this capacity from August 6, 1979 to August 11, 1987. During his tenure at "The Fed," inflation was lowered from a high of 13.5% in 1981 to a low of 3.2% in 1983.

After leaving the Federal Reserve Volcker became Chairman of Wolfensohn & Co., a New York investment banking firm. From 2000 to 2004, he served as Director of the United Nations Association of the United States of America. In April 2004, the United Nations asked him to research possible corruption in the Iraqi Oil-for-Food Program. As of October 2006, he is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Group of Thirty, a Washington-based financial advisory body, as well as a member of the Trilateral Commission.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

The Federal Reserve Board

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This page was last updated on September 14, 2017.