In Memoriam: Bill Frenzel

Bill Frenzel, Brookings guest scholar for the past 23 years, died on Monday, November 17, 2014 at the age of 86 at his home in McLean, Virginia. He also served as a Member of Congress for 20 years, representing Minnesota’s 3rd District.

During his career, Bill was the Ranking Minority Member on the House Budget Committee and was the principal Republican economic spokesperson in the House. He was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and its Trade Subcommittee, and was a congressional representative to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in Geneva for 15 years.

He was appointed to serve by presidents on both sides of the aisle: In 1993, he was special advisor to President Bill Clinton for NAFTA and was instrumental in getting the agreement passed.  In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed him to the Social Security Commission, and in 2002, to the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN), which he chaired. In January, 2005, he was appointed to President Bush’s Tax Reform Commission. And this year, President Obama re-appointed him to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN).

For his efforts on NAFTA, on the 20th anniversary of the passage of the agreement this year, Bill was awarded the Champion of Free Trade Award from the Economic Club of Minnesota in January 2014. In October 2014, he was awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest award Mexico confers on foreigners by Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora at the Mexican Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. And for his overall efforts to advance trade and the US-Japan relationship, in 2000, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, by the Emperor of Japan.

Bill served in many capacities while at Brookings – on the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the Bretton Woods Committee, the Eurasia Foundation, the Ripon Society, the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform, and many more. He also served on the Congressional Ethics Committee and was a board member of Sit Mutual Funds and Northstar Education Finance.

Born on July 31, 1928 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Bill was raised there and went on to receive his B.A. and M.B.A. from Dartmouth College.  In 2002, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Hamline University.  He also served as a Naval Officer during the Korean War. He was president of the Minneapolis Terminal Warehouse Co., and other corporations, was a member of the Executive Board of the American Warehousemen’s Association, and served eight years in the Minnesota Legislature.

Bill is survived by his wife of 63 years, Ruthy; his three daughters, Debby, Pam and Mitty; and two perfect grandchildren, Will and Polly Lindon.