SALT LAKE CITY — When R. Mont Evans was young, his grandparents opened an account for him at a bank in Montpelier, Idaho, to teach him about saving money. As an adult, Evans learned that bank wouldn't have existed had it not been for a visionary Utahn Marriner S. Eccles.
Evans shared his story Tuesday as a statue of Eccles, known as "the father of the federal reserve," was installed on the grounds of the state Capitol. Evans, a former Utah legislator, has served as president of the memorial commission that secured the statue, as well as a second statue in the lobby of the Federal Reserve Board building in Washington, D.C. that bears Eccles' name.
The large bronze sculpture was crafted by local sculptor Mark DeGraffenried and captures Eccles, wearing his favorite cufflinks with a briefcase in hand and jacket tossed across his arm, as if he were stepping out the door on his way to work.
Plaques at the base of the statue herald Eccles as "entrepreneur and business leader" and "statesman and public servant."
Evans learned of Eccles' work as he studied the Great Depression and recounted how Eccles supported struggling banks in the Intermountain West.
"Of course, the impact on the average citizen was that their money was preserved rather than lost," Evans said.
That service continues today through the philanthropic work of the Eccles family, Evans said.
Gov. Gary Herbert called Eccles a pioneer in his own right, leading the nation in economic innovation as the U.S. navigated the pains of the Great Depression and recovery.
"Money, finance and banking were his expertise and the nation was grateful for his leadership during those very difficult times," Herbert said.
Tuesday's celebration in the shade of the Utah State Capitol gathered a crowd of more than 200 people, including members of the state's Legislature, dignitaries of Utah business, faith leaders and many of Eccles' descendants.
Spencer Eccles, chairman and CEO of the First Security Corporation and nephew of Marriner Eccles, shared stories his uncle had told him of his childhood and his experiences working at Marriner Eccles' side for 20 years.
"Uncle Marriner, that native son of Utah, made an amazing impact and accomplished extraordinary things while in Washington," Spencer Eccles said. "Just how was that possible for the son of a Mormon immigrant … who brought his family to Utah with little more than the clothes they wore?"
Hope Eccles, Spencer Eccles' daughter, was accompanied by her three children as she listened to the remarks at Tuesday's dedication. The statue is a way to reintroduce her great uncle as Utah and the nation recover from a new financial struggle, the Great Recession, she said.
"As Dad said in his remarks, we need that kind of leadership, maybe today more than ever," she said. "I'm delighted my children are here getting a chance to hear about this man. They're getting to an age where they can appreciate that these examples, they matter."
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