Janet L. Yellen
9 Images

Seat of financial power: Federal Reserve chairs through the years

Janet L. Yellen

Janet L. Yellen takes over Feb. 1 as the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve as it tries to pull back a key stimulus program without derailing the recovery. Yellen, 67, a former UC Berkeley economist, has been the Fed’s vice chair since 2010, serving as a close ally of outgoing chair Ben S. Bernanke in the central bank’s unprecedented efforts to boost the economy after the Great Recession.

 (Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images)
Ben S. Bernanke
Ben S. Bernanke was a well-known Great Depression scholar when President George W. Bush nominated him in 2005 to chair the Fed. In 2008, Bernanke was at the forefront of Washington’s efforts to avoid another depression. His bold actions since then have been praised by many analysts for helping stabilize the economy, but conservatives have criticized him for risking runaway inflation through the Fed’s aggressive easy-money policies. (Associated Press)
Alan Greenspan and Ben S. Bernanke
Bernanke (right) took the reins of the Fed from Alan Greenspan, who headed the central bank for more than 18 years. (Pete Marovich / Bloomberg)
Alan Greenspan
Alan Greenspan led the Fed from 1987-2006 and earned the nickname “the Maestro” for maneuvering monetary policy through booms and busts. His tenure was widely regarded as a success when he left office, but he later was sharply criticized for failing to foresee the subprime housing crash and financial crisis. (Associated Press)
Volcker, Greenspan and Bernanke
Left to right: Former Fed chairmen Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan and Ben S. Bernanke pose during a ceremony marking the centennial of the founding of the Federal Reserve. Combined the men led the Fed for more than a third of its existence. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)
Paul Volcker
Paul Volcker was one of the most controversial Fed chairs. Appointed in 1979, he fought double-digit inflation by hiking interest rates. The move caused mortgage rates to soar to more than 18% in 1981. But the strategy was widely regarded as successful in bringing inflation down and leading to an economic recovery. Volcker, who stepped down in 1987, later was an economic adviser to President Obama. (Pete Marovich / Bloomberg)
Arthur Burns and William Miller
G. William Miller (right) was nominated by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 to replace Arthur F. Burns (left) as Fed chair. Just like Burns, who led the Fed from 1970-78, Miller was unable to tame inflation and was replaced by Volcker after less than 18 months on the job. Miller, who became Treasury Secretary as Carter shook up his cabinet, had one of the shortest tenures of any Fed chair.  (Associated Press file photo)
William McChesney Martin Jr.
William McChesney Martin Jr.was the longest-serving Fed chairman, holding the job from 1951-1970. He presided over a period of economic expansion in the U.S. and a Fed freed from a wartime commitment to keep interest rates low to keep government borrowing costs down. The Fed’s contemporary second building is named after him. ()
Fed chairman Marriner S. Eccles with FDR
Marriner S. Eccles (right), shown with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other Fed board members in 1936, led the central bank from 1934-48. He kept interest rates low to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression. The Fed’s classical main building on Constitution Avenue in Washington, constructed during his tenure, was named after him in 1982.  (Associated Press)