Former Fed chief, Treasury Secretary G. William Miller dies at age 81
WASHINGTON – G. William Miller, a former Federal Reserve chairman who as treasury secretary during the Carter administration directed the Chrysler Corp. bailout but could not beat back inflation, has died. He was 81.Miller had suffered from a lung ailment, said Michael H. Cardozo, managing director of Miller’s Washington-based merchant banking firm and a former White House counsel for President Carter. Miller died Friday night at his home.Carter plucked Miller from the business world in 1978 to replace Arthur F. Burns as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. The following year Carter named Miller to replace the dismissed W. Michael Blumenthal as treasury secretary, making Miller the only person to have guided both the nation’s central bank and the Treasury Department.Miller was considered ineffectual as Fed chairman, serving one of the shortest tenures in Fed history, and he received mixed reviews as treasury secretary as inflation ran rampant in the late 1970s.While a capable manager of the Treasury Department and the administration’s point of view on economic matters, he was not seen as a policy innovator nor as a potent force against double-digit inflation.Miller, who supervised the Chrysler Corp. Loan Guarantee Board while serving as treasury secretary, oversaw the $1.5 billion loan guarantee begun in 1980 that kept the automaker afloat. At first, he opposed providing more than $750 million in assistance, but Carter and Congress approved the deal despite fears that the government would be left to pay off private lenders if Chrysler slipped into bankruptcy.Chrysler recovered financially in the early 1980s and even paid off its debts seven years earlier than expected.When Carter named him to the Fed, Miller was the chairman and chief executive officer of Textron Inc., a corporate conglomerate that registered $2.6 billion in sales the year before he joined the Federal Reserve.The appointment – Miller would become Fed chairman on March 8, 1978 – drew praise from the business world, where he was known as a successful executive, and caution from those who questioned his expertise in monetary policy. He had been a director of the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston.High oil prices, a weak bond market and a falling dollar fueled an economic crisis in 1979, and inflation approached an annual rate of 12 percent. Carter, his re-election in peril, shook up his Cabinet and, at the same time, sought to replace Miller at the Fed with someone more aggressive.Miller agreed to leave the Fed and became treasury secretary on Aug. 6, 1979, with just 18 months remaining in Carter’s term. He was replaced at the Fed by Paul A. Volcker, whose reputation as an inflation buster would bloom during the Reagan administration. Volcker pushed interest rates to their highest levels since the Civil War in a successful, if painful, campaign to end a decade of advancing inflation.Miller was more comfortable serving as the administration’s chief spokesman on economic matters. Since his brief tenure at the Fed, no business executive has been tapped to head the central bank.Miller was born March 9, 1925, in Sapulpa, Okla., and grew up in Borger, Texas. He graduated in 1945 from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy after majoring in marine engineering. He left the Coast Guard in 1949 to study law, graduating in 1952 from the University of California School of Law at Berkeley.After practicing law in New York, he joined Rhode Island-based Textron in 1956. He was named a vice president in 1957 and president in 1960. He became Textron’s chief executive officer in 1968 and its chairman in 1974.Miller started his merchant banking firm in 1983. Over the years he also served on the boards of numerous companies. He was chairman and CEO of Federated Stores Inc. in Cincinnati from 1990-1992.He is survived by his wife, Ariadna; three sisters; and two brothers. Services will be private.
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