About William McChesney Martin Jr. (1906-1998)
William McChesney Martin Jr. was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on 17 December 1906, and died on 27 July 1998 in Washington, D.C. His father was a prominent St. Louis banker who was called upon by President Woodrow Wilson to help draft legislation that would eventually create the Federal Reserve System; he served as the first Federal Agent for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in 1914.
"Bill" Martin was educated in St. Louis Public Schools (Clark Elementary, Ben Blewett Junior High School, and Soldan High School) and briefly attended St. Louis Country Day School. He graduated from Yale University in 1928.
He briefly worked in the bank examination department of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, then joined a new St. Louis stock brokerage firm, A.G. Edwards & Sons, becoming the youngest partner in the firm's history. In 1931, he was sent to the New York Stock Exchange as his firm's representative on Wall Street. He became a member of the NYSE and later, in 1938, at the age of thirty-one, the first paid president of the exchange.
In 1941, President Martin was drafted into the United States Army as a private. He served in Washington, D.C., on assignments to the Munitions Board and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was involved in the Lend-Lease program with the Soviet Union. In April 1942, as a lieutenant, Martin married Cynthia Davis, daughter of St. Louis' Dwight F. Davis, former Secretary of War, Governor-General of the Philippines, and American tennis champion.
Martin was discharged from the Army in 1945 as a colonel and served three years as president of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, where he made substantial contributions to foreign trade and the Marshall Plan's post-war reconstruction. He served as assistant secretary of the Treasury, where he oversaw both domestic and international financial policy, and as the U.S. representative on the board of the World Bank. He was instrumental in forging the Treasury Accord with the Federal Reserve System in 1951.
In April 1951, while at the Treasury, Martin was nominated by President Harry Truman for the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve System. Chairman Martin remains the longest-serving Chairman of the Board of Governors. During his 19-year term, under the administrations of presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, he achieved changes in economic management and international financial coordination in the United States that encouraged economic stability and prosperity.
The Martin family, father and son, played important roles in the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the Federal Reserve System. This project provides increased public access to historical papers that illuminate an interesting period of American economic history and the formative years of a man important to the development of Federal Reserve policies and independence after the Great Depression.