Anthony M. Solomon, 88; Adviser To 3 Presidents on World Economics

Anthony Solomon, right, is shown at a House meeting in 1977, when he was undersecretary of the treasury.
Anthony Solomon, right, is shown at a House meeting in 1977, when he was undersecretary of the treasury. (By Frank Johnston -- The Washington Post)
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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 27, 2008

Anthony M. Solomon, an international economic adviser to three presidents who later played a leading part in setting federal monetary policy, died Jan. 18 of kidney failure at his home in New York. He was 88.

Mr. Solomon held high-level positions in the State Department under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and later had a three-year stint as undersecretary of the treasury during the administration of Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Solomon was a businessman and college professor early in his career before becoming an authority on trade and economic matters. In 1979, as a treasury undersecretary, he helped orchestrate the effort to freeze Iranian assets after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the shah of Iran.

In the early 1980s, as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Mr. Solomon was "a powerful figure in the nation's central bank system," according to Washington Post columnist Hobart Rowen, and "second only to Fed Chairman Paul A. Volcker" in his influence on federal economic policy.

Mr. Solomon combined his academic interest in economics with firsthand experience in business. During the 1950s, he lived in Mexico and operated Rosa Blanca Products, a company that made processed soups. When he sold the business to General Foods in 1961, Mr. Solomon became a millionaire and devoted the rest of his career to being an economic troubleshooter.

He was teaching at Harvard University in the early 1960s when Kennedy asked him to lead a group developing an economic policy for Micronesia, then administered by the United States. That assignment led to later appointments as deputy assistant secretary of state for Latin America from 1963 to 1965 and assistant secretary of state for economic affairs from 1965 to 1969.

A hallmark of Mr. Solomon's career was his belief that free trade was a key element in creating free and open societies. In 1965, after widespread civil disturbances erupted in the Dominican Republic, Mr. Solomon helped reestablish economic stability in the island nation and personally oversaw the distribution of food from government warehouses.

From 1969 to 1972, he directed the International Investment Corp. for Yugoslavia, an organization affiliated with the World Bank. It was one of the first efforts to establish joint ventures between Western businesses and corporations within the Communist bloc.

At the Treasury Department in 1977, Mr. Solomon instituted the "trigger-price mechanism," which protected U.S. steel products from cheaper foreign competitors by increasing tariffs until the imports reached a minimum "trigger price."

In the late 1970s, Mr. Solomon negotiated a compensation arrangement with China over American assets seized after the Communist revolution of 1949. As president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank from 1980 to 1984, he helped devise policies to alleviate a Latin American debt crisis.

Mr. Solomon was born Dec. 27, 1919, in Arlington, N.J., and graduated from the University of Chicago. During the 1940s, he supervised U.S. lend-lease policies in Iran. He received a master's degree in economics from Harvard in 1948 and taught at Harvard before entering business in Mexico.

He was an adviser to U.S. Rep. Wilbur Mills (D-Ark.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, in the 1970s and served as chairman of the executive committee of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. In the late 1980s, he was chairman of S.G. Warburg Inc., an investment banking firm.

Mr. Solomon had a longtime interest in art and, in the mid-1970s, began making abstract sculptures from wood, clay and bronze. He was chairman of P.S. 1, a modern art museum in New York, and served on the board of the Andy Warhol Foundation. He collected Tang Dynasty tomb sculptures from China.

In 1976, Mr. Solomon donated $50,000 to establish the Nicky Solomon Foundation to seek ways to prevent violent crime. The foundation was named for his 21-year-old daughter, Adele Nicole Solomon, who was a student at George Washington University when she was killed in her apartment near Dupont Circle in March 1976. In a case that received wide publicity at the time, a suspect was convicted of burglary but acquitted of murder and assault.

During much of the 1960s and '70s, Mr. Solomon lived on a farm in Great Falls, where he and his wife were known for entertaining members of the international set. They moved to New York in 1980.

His wife of 48 years, Constance Kaufman Solomon, died in 1998.

Survivors include two children, Adam Solomon of New York City and Tracy Solomon Ford of San Rafael, Calif.; and two grandchildren.

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