Oscar Newton became the fifth governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on January 10, 1935. While he was governor, the Banking Act of 1935 changed the title to president. Newton served as president from February 14, 1936, until his death on February 13, 1939.
Newton was born in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, in 1877. He was a graduate of Newton Institution at Crystal Springs and studied at Southwestern Presbyterian College in Clarksville, Tennessee. He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
Newton started his career in 1895 as a clerk and assistant cashier at the Mutual Bank of Crystal Springs at the age of eighteen. He then joined Brookhaven Bank & Trust Company in Mississippi as first cashier, where he was employed for ten years. Newton also worked at State National Bank of Jackson, Mississippi, where he served as president from 1910 to 1925.
Newton was active in the community. He served as chairman of the Jackson Board of Education for five years and was also president of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce and the Mississippi Banker’s Association.
Newton served on the Atlanta Fed Board of Directors and, in 1925, became chairman of the board and fiscal agent of the Bank. In 1935, he was made governor and the following year he became the first president of the Bank due to the title change made in the Banking Act of 1935. The act also created the Federal Open Market Committee, initiating a more centralized monetary policy instead of a confederation of Federal Reserve Banks conducting open market operations on a regional basis.
While Newton was Atlanta Fed president, the United States and other countries were suffering through the Great Depression. Those years were characterized by high unemployment, declines in personal income and savings, tax revenues, company profits and prices, and reduced international trade. The US economy hit bottom in 1933, and then the economy grew for four years until a recession occurred in 1937.
Newton and his wife, the former Lorraine Johnson, had two sons, Jerry and Oscar Jr., and a daughter, Louise.
Written by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. See disclaimer.