WASHINGTON - Paul Volcker eulogized William Taylor on Monday as a man whose integrity and independence propelled him to leadership among banking regulators.
"He had no political sponsors, nor did he seek any," said Mr. Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman who worked closely with Mr. Taylor during the 1970s and 1980s.
"It was competence alone," said Mr. Volcker, that brought Mr. Taylor to the chairmanship of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last October after a career as a bank regulator beginning in 1961 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Mr. Taylor, who died Thursday at age 53 while under treatment at Fairfax (Va.) Hospital, was destined to be a leader, Mr. Volcker said. "He knew how to draw on the strengths of others, but he was perfectly willing to get out in front."
Mr. Volcker had interrupted a trip to Russia to deliver a 15-minute eulogy during an emotional funeral service in Washington National Cathedral.
Regulatory Elite on Hand
Among about 1,500 in attendance were Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady and his deputy, John Robson; acting FDIC Chairman Andrew C. "Skip" Hove Jr.; Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and most of the current Board of Governors; former FDIC chairmen L. William Seidman and William Isaac, and most senior Fed and FDIC staffers.
Mr. Volcker, now an investment banker, said he had talked to the late FDIC chief for the last time on Friday, Aug. 14, the day after Mr. Taylor underwent surgery to remove an obstruction in his colon.
"Bill picked up the phone himself," Mr. Volcker recalled, "doing his best to banish any concern about his health." Mr. Taylor also insisted on swearing in C.C. Hope to a second term on the FDIC board just hours before the surgery.
Mr. Taylor contracted pneumonia on the Aug. 15-16 weekend and died of a heart attack Thursday morning.
A |Sixth Sense'
"He died too young," Mr. Volcker said in a particularly poignant part of his address.
Mr. Volcker, who was his boss when Mr. Taylor was the Fed's top bank supervisor, asked the audience "not to mourn his death but celebrate his life."
Mr. Taylor was a dedicated public servant who spent the 1980s managing a series of financial crises that included the silver market's collapse, the fall of Continental Illinois Bank, the lesser-developed-country debt debacle, and runs on thrifts in Ohio and Maryland, Mr. Volcker said.
He said Mr. Taylor, as a regulator, had a "sixth sense shared by the best financial analysts. He knew when something's not quite right."
The Rev. Constantine White of St. Nicholas Cathedral here, who had known Mr. Taylor since boyhood, made the only other personal speech at the service. "If you were in need, he was there," the priest said. "His life was not about himself. It was about others."