Emmett John Rice (1919-2011)

Emmett Rice official portrait, Photo from Federal Reserve System
Emmett Rice official portrait
Photo from Federal Reserve System (CC0)

Economist, academic scholar, and bank executive Emmett John Rice was born on December 21, 1919, in Florence, South Carolina to Ulysses Simpson Rice, a Methodist minister, and Sue Suber Pearl, a schoolteacher. However, when he was 13, the Rices moved to Harlem, New York City. Rice received a Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Business Administration degrees from the City College of New York in 1941 and 1942 respectively.

Rice was drafted during World War II, first as an enlisted soldier after graduating and sent to the segregated Tuskegee Army Airfield in Tuskegee, Alabama for advanced military pilot training. He later received the rank of captain in accounting with the Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first Black fighter pilot unit.

In 1952, Rice became a Fulbright scholar in India. There he was also a research associate at the Reserve Bank of India. In 1954, he began teaching economics at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and by 1955, Rice earned a Doctor of Philosophy in economics at the University of California at Berkeley. While studying, Rice integrated the Berkeley Fire Department as the first Black American fireman.

Rice was the Adviser for the Central Bank of Nigeria, in the then capital city of Lagos, from 1962 to 1964. While there he helped formulate financial policies for the newly independent nation. In 1966, he moved to Washington, D.C. to assume the position of executive director of the World Bank and remained at that post until 1970 when he became a senior vice president of the National Bank of Washington.

In 1979, Rice was appointed to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors by U.S. President Jimmy Carter, thus being the second African American Board member, following Andrew Brimmer. From 1979 to 1986 he directed the board’s administrative team and oversaw its international organizations and outreach programs by implementing relevant monetary policies of the United States in various countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In addition, Rice co-authored Education of an Economist: From Fulbright Scholar to the Federal Reserve Board, 1951-1979 (1991).

Dr. Emmett John Rice was the father of two children, Emmett John Rice Jr., an alumni trustee on the Yale Corporation, and Dr. Susan Rice Cameron, former United Nations Ambassador and foreign policy adviser. Susan Rice had been married to Lois Dickson Rice of Portland, Maine, a former education policy researcher and scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. from Portland, Maine.

Emmett John Rice died of congestive heart failure on March 10, 2011, in Camas, Washington. He was 91.