Obituary: Andrew F. Brimmer, former Wilmer D. Barrett Professor of Economics

Andrew F. Brimmer, 86, who was the Wilmer D. Barrett Professor of Economics in the Economics Department from 1987 to 2000, died Oct. 7. He continued teaching undergraduates and giving public lectures and workshops until 2008.

Michael Ash, professor of Economics and Public Policy and current chair of the Department of Economics, recall his interactions with Brimmer. “Beginning with my arrival on campus, I would look forward to Dr. Brimmer’s once-a-term seminars for colleagues,” Ash says. “His presentations on macroeconomics offered insight to us and to students at UMass Amherst otherwise unavailable outside the highest policy circles in Washington, D.C. I feel fortunate to have known Andrew Brimmer and will greatly miss this pioneering professor and policy-maker.”

Brimmer, the son of a sharecropper, had a long and distinguished career. He was the former chair of the Board of Trustees at Tuskegee University in Alabama, serving on the board from 1965 until 2010. He chaired the board beginning in 1982.

He was the first African-American to be a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. He ran the District of Columbia Financial Control Board, created by Congress to manage the D. C. government’s financial matters during its financial crisis from 1995 to 1998. he spent the first 10 years of his life in a small, segregated Louisiana town and went on to earn a Ph.D. from the Harvard University Business School.

According to an obituary in the New York Times, Bimmer was born in 1926, in Newellton, La. After graduating from high school he went to Washington State, where one of his sisters lived. He joined the Army near the end of World War II and attained the rank of staff sergeant, remaining in the United States.

He is survived by his wife Doris Scott Brimmer and a daughter, Esther, who is the assistant secretary for international organization affairs at the State Department.

Brimmer attended the University of Washington in Seattle on the G.I. Bill of Rights, earning an undergraduate degree in economics in 1950 and a master’s degree the next year. He then went to India before attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, where he earned a doctorate.