Former Fed spokesman Coyne dead at 83

September 5, 2011 - 2:10 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joseph Coyne, who oversaw the public affairs operations at the Federal Reserve for more than three decades, has died. He was 83.

Coyne died unexpectedly on Sunday in Scranton, Pa., where he had gone to attend his 65th high school reunion.

A former reporter for The Associated Press, Coyne retired from the Fed in 1998 after a career that spanned four Fed chairmen — Arthur Burns, G. William Miller, Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan.

During his time as director of public affairs, the central bank evolved from a highly secretive institution to one more willing to explain its decisions on interest rates to the public. That process has continued under current Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The Fed came under heavy criticism in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Volcker was pushing interest rates to levels not seen since the Civil War to deal with high inflation triggered by the oil shocks of the 1970s.

Coyne, writing about those times, remembered that he had to deal with angry consumer groups, home builders mailing hundreds of two-by-four pieces of lumber from unbuilt homes to the Fed and car dealers sending in keys from unsold cars.

To deal with the protests, Coyne set up meetings for Volcker and other Fed officials to explain the central bank's programs which, Coyne wrote, "broke the back of inflation and laid the groundwork" for a sustained period of economic growth.

Coyne, who was born in Scranton, Pa. in 1928, graduated from the University of Scranton and received a masters degree from Fordham University.

After starting his journalism career at the Binghamton Sun in New York, he joined the AP, working first in Philadelphia and then Harrisburg, Pa., and Atlantic City, N.J., where one of his assignments was covering the annual Miss America Pageants.

In Washington, Coyne covered national and international economic news, becoming the AP's chief economics writer before he joined the Fed.

Coyne, who lived in Annandale, Va., is survived by five sons, Patrick, Michael, Dennis, Tim and Kevin, 13 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were pending.