Robert P. Forrestal became the twelfth president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on December 7, 1983. He served until January 1, 1996.
Forrestal was born in New York City in 1931. He received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in New York and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC. In 1953, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study in France. He also served in the US Navy in Morocco, Italy, and Great Britain. He was discharged in July 1957 with the rank of lieutenant (senior grade).
Following three years of legal practice, in 1964 Forrestal joined the legal division at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, DC, as an attorney. He was named a senior attorney in 1965 and assistant secretary of the Board in 1968, serving until 1970. He moved to the Atlanta Fed in 1970 and served as general counsel and later as first vice president and chief operating officer.
Forrestal became president of the Atlanta Fed on December 7, 1983. During his tenure, the country experienced a period of economic prosperity and reduced business cycle fluctuations known as the Great Moderation. However, in 1987 the United States also suffered the biggest stock market crash since 1929.
Under Forrestal’s leadership, the Atlanta Fed’s check-processing operation became the nation’s largest and most efficient, and he strengthened the economic research department. Known for raising awareness of globalization and the financial system, Forrestal gave numerous speeches around the country and in Latin America and Europe, often in French, Italian, or Spanish. Noteworthy speeches include: "Latin America’s Economic Boom: The US Perspective and Banking Outlook."
Former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan said, “During three eventful decades of service to the Federal Reserve System, starting as an attorney at the Board and culminating as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Bob Forrestal exemplified dedication, seasoned judgment and keen intelligence.”
After retiring from the Bank, Forrestal worked with the Atlanta law firm of Smith, Gambrell & Russell and served on several corporate boards. He was a member of the boards of directors of Equifax Inc., Genuine Parts Co., ING North America Co., and ING Advisory Council in the Netherlands.
Throughout his career, Forrestal also served on numerous community service-oriented boards, including those of hospitals, universities, and nonprofit organizations. He served as chair of the Georgia State University (GSU) Foundation and director of the Georgia World Congress Institute, Atlanta Rotary Club, and Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. He was also on the board of advisers of the College of Business Administration at GSU and on the board of trustees of Oglethorpe University. He served as trustee of the Atlanta Arts Alliance, Piedmont Hospital, Central Atlanta Progress, the Commerce Club, and the Carter Center Board of Councilors. Forrestal passed away in 2004. He was married to Wilma Anderson Forrestal, and they had a daughter, Renee Spoerer, and three grandsons, Robbie, Nicholas, and Thomas.
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Annual Report, 2004. https://www.frbatlanta.org/-/media/documents/about/atlantafed/publications/annual-report/2004.pdf.
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Press Release, October 25, 1995: Forrestal new Atlanta location 1000 Peachtree. http://www.frbatlanta.org/news/pressreleases/atlantafed/atl_fed_press_release-oct_25_1995.cfm
Gamble, Richard. “A History of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta 1914–1989,” 1989.
“Paid Notice: Forrestal Death.” New York Times, May 30, 2004.
Written by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. See disclaimer.