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KENNEDY SAW INFLATION AS PRIME ENEMY

The late David M. Kennedy spent two years as U.S. Treasury secretary battling inflation.

A moderate economic conservative with ties to international banking, Kennedy was appointed in 1968 by newly elected President Richard M. Nixon to head the Treasury Department.The 90-year-old Utah native died Wednesday night at his home in Salt Lake City. A family spokeswoman said he had suffered for years from congestive heart failure.

"Kennedy's most persistent theme throughout his tenure as secretary of the Treasury was the danger of inflation," biographer Martin Hickman wrote in "Kennedy: Banker, Statesman and Churchman."

Even before he was sworn in, he horrified European money managers and touched off a round of jitters on Wall Street when he refused to rule out the possibility of an increase in the price of gold.

Soon after, to the consternation of the White House, he considered wage and price controls to curb inflation.

Taking the Treasury post after eight years of Democratic rule, Kennedy said the whole range of fiscal and monetary policy should be open to inspection. As treasurer, he called for a budget surplus and monetary restraint, but economic problems exacerbated by the spiraling cost of the Vietnam War marked his tenure.

Kennedy resigned in December 1970 but had actually written his letter of resignation on Oct. 31. He delayed submitting it until after the 1970 congressional elections, perhaps at Nixon's request.

Responding to speculation that he was quitting to be a scapegoat for the country's economic problems, Kennedy said: "There was no indication about a failure of policies. The policies are working."

Nixon, who appointed former Texas Gov. John B. Connally to succeed Kennedy, made Kennedy ambassador-at-large with responsibility for international finance, a Cabinet-level post he held until 1973.

Kennedy previously had been chairman since 1959 of Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Co. He had worked at the bank since 1946 except for a two-year stint as assistant to the secretary of the Treasury in 1953-54.

As Continental Illinois chairman, Kennedy made it the first Midwestern bank to establish a branch in London and later acquired three Japanese banks.

Kennedy served on the Federal Reserve Board from 1930 to 1946.

After leaving government service in 1973, Kennedy was appointed the following year as a special representative of the Mormon Church's governing First Presidency, in effect serving as the faith's ambassador-at-large, until church officials decided in 1990 that the post no longer was needed.