Cecil E. Earhart became president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco on October 17, 1946, shortly after the untimely death of his predecessor, Ira Clerk. After completing that term and a subsequent one, Earhart retired on February 29, 1956.
Earhart was born in 1890, in Montague, California, near the Oregon border. His father was a postmaster, contractor, and country-store merchant, and the younger Earhart demonstrated similar versatility and work ethic. In addition to doing the usual chores at home and helping his father, he saved enough to purchase some cows and started delivering milk after school. He assisted on carpentry and electrical work during school vacations.
After grammar school in rural Siskiyou County, Earhart headed south in 1906 to the Bay Area, where he thought there were better educational opportunities. He worked part time and attended Oakland High School, from which he graduated as class valedictorian in 1909.
After a brief interest in electrical engineering and a short stint at Pacific Gas & Electric, Earhart sought to further his education at the University of California. He contracted malaria in his second semester and had a change of heart, deciding to pursue a career instead. He got his start in banking, working in the Transit Department of Wells Fargo Nevada National Bank in 1911. Earhart also earned a graduate certificate from the American Institute of Banking during this period.
Earhart joined the San Francisco Fed in October 1917 as a clerk in the Auditing Department. He moved up the ranks, starting with his appointment as acting assistant cashier in December 1919. He was promoted to assistant cashier in July 1920, cashier in April 1936, vice president in January 1943 and first vice president in January 1946.
During his time at the San Francisco Fed, Earhart participated on many Federal Reserve System committees. He helped steer monetary policy on the Federal Open Market Committee in 1949-50, 1952-53, and 1955-56. He was chairman of the Committee on Miscellaneous Operations of Presidents’ Conference and served on the Standing Committee on Fiscal Agency Operations. He also represented fellow employees of the San Francisco Fed as their first elected trustee of the Retirement System of the Federal Reserve Banks from the system’s inception in 1943 until 1945. He joined the Board of Trustees again with his presidency.
When Earhart was appointed president in 1946, an employee newsletter of the San Francisco Fed said, “His reputation for sound judgment is Systemwide, and announcement of his election as President of this bank has been received with much satisfaction, both within and outside the bank.”1
In his decade of service as president, Earhart both initiated and sustained a number of social and employee-oriented traditions, including presenting a “perpetual trophy” to winners of the Bank Club yearly golf tournament, handing out checks to creative employees offering improvements under a new Reserve Bank suggestion system, and acting as master of ceremonies for numerous Bank Club dinners.
After leaving the bank in 1956, Earhart enjoyed several decades in retirement, where he traveled widely and participated broadly in leisure activities in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Earhart died in Piedmont, California, in 1982 at age ninety-two.
Written by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. See disclaimer.