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Former Fed chief William Miller, 81, dies

G. William Miller, who served as both chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve and secretary of the U.S. Treasury during the inflation-plagued Carter administration, has died.
/ Source: Reuters

G. William Miller, who served as both chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve and secretary of the U.S. Treasury during the inflation-plagued Carter administration, has died.

Miller, 81, whose tenure at the Fed was one of the shortest on record, died Friday at his home in Washington. Michael Cardozo, a managing director at the investment firm Miller founded, said Miller had suffered from a degenerative lung ailment, pulmonary fibrosis, and was on oxygen at the time of his death.

A native of Oklahoma, Miller achieved a record as a successful businessman early in his career after guiding a Rhode Island-based textiles firm, Textron Inc., into a conglomerate that produced a range of goods including military hardware.

He was named chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1978, serving until 1979. Short as it was, Miller's service at the U.S. central bank came at a crucial period when inflation was soaring, oil prices were rising and unemployment was high, giving rise to the term "stagflation."

There was considerable criticism of Miller from Wall Street, which felt he was overly cautious in tackling the problems. President Jimmy Carter eventually asked him to leave the Fed and move to the secretary's job at the Treasury Department. Miller was replaced at the Fed by Paul Volcker, who wrung out inflation by pushing interest rates to lofty levels.

Miller ran the Treasury from 1979 to 1981 and during that time supervised the Chrysler Corp. Loan Guarantee Board, which handled the $1.5 billion loan guarantee that kept the automaker going and saved jobs.

After leaving government service, Miller founded G. William Miller & Co., a Washington-based private investment company.

George William Miller was born on March 9, 1925, in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, and spent much of his childhood in Borger, Texas. He graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1945 and was a 1952 graduate of the University of California Law School at Berkeley.

He is survived by his wife, Ariadna, along with three sisters and two brothers.