Paul Volcker speaks during a meeting of the State Budget Crisis Task Force at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia in 2013.

Paul Volcker speaks during a meeting of the State Budget Crisis Task Force at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia in 2013. Matt Rourke / AP file photo

Former Fed Chairman and Public Service Champion Paul Volcker Dies at 92

His career spanned five decades and seven presidents. 

Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman who curbed inflation and a long-time public service champion, died on Sunday at age 92 of complications from prostate cancer.

Volcker’s career spanned five decades and seven presidents. Most notably he was the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1979 to 1987, during which he ended a long period of inflation. Following that, he devoted his work to improving civil service and government in public and private sector capacities. 

“Volcker leaves an amazing legacy of leadership, service and impact,” said Thomas Ross, president of the Volcker Alliance. “He served our nation with great distinction as Chair of the Federal Reserve among other important positions, steering our country through challenging economic times more than once. Mr. Volcker was admired by people with differing political views for his courageous decision-making often under great pressure. His advice was widely trusted. He spent many of his years since leaving government working to protect and improve our public service and chaired two national commissions on the public service.”

Volcker’s last official government job was head of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board in the Obama administration from 2008 to 2011. “Paul Volcker was a brilliant public servant, a good and decent man, with a terrific sense of humor, and I am very proud to say he was my friend. RIP,” tweeted Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to President Obama. 

Volcker established the nonprofit Volcker Alliance in 2013, which works to “advance effective management of government to achieve results that matter to citizens,” Ross said. “The Volcker Alliance’s work is inspired by the vision he set forth of a public sector workforce with the experience, preparation, and commitment to ensure that government is accountable and delivers with excellence.”

This past year, Volcker was part of the inaugural class of inductees to Government Executive’sGovernment Hall of Fame.” Also, in October the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service renamed its career achievement award for Volcker. The honor is part of the Partnership’s annual “Oscars of government service” awards.

“Too many of the best in the assailed bureaucracy, both in Congress and in key administrative posts, have left too soon, doubting that their voices could be heard or that their goals could be achieved,” Volcker wrote in his 2018 memoir with Christine Harper. “That needs to change. And it won’t be easy. As a signal of my concern, I decided to establish a foundation with a mission impossible: Can we stimulate others—particularly schools of public policy, of management, of administration—to rethink how government can and should respond to the needs of the twenty-first century?”