A. James Meigs

Obituary of A. James Meigs

A. James Meigs, 93, of Princeton, died November 17, peacefully at home. A leading economist of the monetarist school, he was also an avid scuba diver, fly fisherman, world traveler, and a dedicated husband, father and grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend. Born in Balboa, Panama, to Alexander Edgar and Della Welch Meigs, he grew up in the colony of U.S. workers who operated the Panama Canal. He graduated from Balboa High School and Panama Canal Zone Junior College. At age 18, he went to work in the canal's Mechanical Division machine shop as an apprentice machinist, learning to craft the parts needed to repair passing ships and keep the canal's equipment running. By age 21, he had earned the rank of journeyman machinist. In a long life of many accomplishments, that was one of his most treasured. For the rest of his life, he would talk about how much he respected the older master craftsmen-those "good mechanics"-who taught him the importance of hard work and craftsmanship. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps, where his mechanical skills were highly valued. After the war, at the urging of his high school librarian, he applied to Harvard University and matriculated with the class of 1948. Harvard expanded his world dramatically: he saw snow for the first time and discovered the field of economics. Economics brought him to the University of Chicago, where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, studying under iconoclastic economist Milton Friedman, who became a mentor and lifelong friend. In Chicago, he also met a young Wellesley graduate named Grace Lester Cobb. They were married in 1950 and would have four children. Life in the Meigs family involved deep intellectual curiosity, passionate dinner-table conversations, adventurous road trips, and abundant love. His early career included a teaching position at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and a stint at the Saint Louis, MO, branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. In 1961, his work took the Meigs family east. From their home in his beloved Princeton, he commuted to work in New York City, where he held positions in the economics departments at New York Stock Exchange, First National City Bank (later Citbank), and Argus Research. In 1975, he joined the faculty of Claremont Men's College (today, Claremont McKenna College), holding an endowed chair in economics. While there he founded the Claremont Economics Institute, a forecasting group that advised the Reagan White House. In 1981 he joined California's First Interstate Bank (today Wells Fargo) as chief economist. Throughout his career, he advocated for free markets and advanced the monetarist theory of economics. He was a longtime member of the Mont Pelerin Society, the Shadow Open Market Committee, the Downtown Economists Club, and other groups dedicated to sound economic policy. He published two books, Free Reserves and the Money Supply (1962) and Money Matters (1972), as well as numerous papers. He was a loyal parishioner at Princeton's All Saints Church, where he served in numerous lay roles over the years. He was also a longtime member of the Harvard Club and an active participant in the Forum, a discussion group at Princeton Windrows, where he lived. He is survived by his wife, Lester; his children Margaret, Susan, James, and Barbara, and 11 grandchildren. He was predeceased by his beloved younger sister, Margaret Meigs Molloy. The funeral service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2 p.m., at All Saints Church, in Princeton. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be given to All Saints Church or the Wounded Warrior Project. Arrangements are under the direction of Mather-Hodge Funeral Home Princeton

Share Your Memory of
A. James