John Skelton Williams became the first comptroller of the currency to serve on the Federal Reserve Board on February 2, 1914. Reappointed to the position in 1919, Williams resigned as comptroller on March 2, 1921.
Williams was born in Powhatan County, Virginia, in 1865. After receiving his education at the University of Virginia, he served as the organizer and president of the Seaboard Air Line Railway System from 1899 through 1904. During 1901, he was also chairman of the American Bankers Association.
In the years after Williams left the railroad business, he became an increasingly influential banker. He held a variety of positions as an organizer and president of banks, trust companies, and industrial institutions. By 1913, he was noticed by President Woodrow Wilson, who appointed him to the office of first assistant secretary of the Treasury. Williams also became a member of the advisory board on valuation of railroad, steamship, telegraph, and telephone lines.
In January 1914, President Wilson named Williams the comptroller of the currency. The Federal Reserve Act had created the Federal Reserve System just weeks earlier. The Act established a central banking system in the United States. It made the comptroller of the currency a member of the Federal Reserve Board, the committee tasked with organizing and implementing the new banking system.
While serving on the Federal Reserve Board, Williams held multiple other governmental appointments. From 1917 to 1918, he was director of the Division of Finance and Purchases of the United States Railroad Administration. From 1918 to 1919, he was a member of the Capital Issues Committee. Williams was also appointed to multiple positions at the American Red Cross between 1913 and 1921.
Throughout his life, Williams published a variety of addresses about finance and economics.
After leaving the Federal Reserve Board, Williams became president of Richmond Trust Company in 1924. He died in 1926.
Written by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. See disclaimer.