Larry Summers's Not-So-Illustrious Predecessor

tags: Federal Reserve



Stephen Mihm, an associate professor of history at the University of Georgia, is a contributor to the Ticker. Follow him on Twitter.

A Democratic president has reluctantly bowed to pressure and accepted the withdrawal of his preferred nominee to the Federal Reserve -- a man whom he pointedly described as “my personal choice.” Despite his close connections to the president and his longstanding loyalty, the presumptive appointee couldn't overcome his poor standing with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and fell on his sword rather than force the president to spend political capital on a losing confirmation fight.

Larry Summers? Nope. That would be Thomas D. Jones, who was nominated to serve on the Fed board by President Woodrow Wilson in the late spring of 1914. Jones was part of a slate of nominees: The Fed, created the previous year, had yet to begin operation, and it fell to Wilson to furnish the first board with what one magazine described as the “seven wise men of finance.” Jones was a lawyer and a director of International Harvester, one of the largest corporations in the U.S. at the time.

But Jones's nomination had less to do with his qualifications than it did the immense gratitude the president felt toward Jones for helping him out in his moment of crisis. In this case, it wasn't a financial crisis like the one that President Barack Obama endured with Summers by his side, but Wilson’s controversial presidency at Princeton University from 1902 to 1910....




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