Donald Thomas Regan – Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps

Government Official

Courtesy of the United States Treasury Department:

Donald T. Regan was sworn in on January 22, 1981, as the 66th Secretary of the Treasury. President Reagan nominated him on December 11, 1980, when he was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Merrill Lynch & Company, Inc., the holding company formed by Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc.


Secretary Regan served as Chairman pro tempore of the Cabinet Council on Economic Affairs and as the Administration’s chief economic spokesman. The Cabinet Council on Economic Affairs had primary responsibility for advising the President on developing and implementing domestic and international economic policies. Secretary Regan also worked closely with the President’s Economic Policy Advisory Board, a group of distinguished nongovernmental economists that met periodically with the President and his senior economic advisors to discuss major economic developments.

In 1981, Secretary Regan was elected Chairman of the Depository Institutions Deregulation Committee which was created by Congress to phase out interest rate ceilings on deposits in commercial banks, mutual savings banks, savings and loan associations, and credit unions.

Mr. Regan joined Merrill Lynch in 1946 as an account executive trainee. Following his training, he worked as an account executive in Washington, D.C., and in early 1952, was named Manager of the Trading Department in New York. He became a general partner in the firm in 1954. From 1955 until 1960, he was manager of the Merrill Lynch office in Philadelphia. In 1960, he returned to New York as director of the Administrative Division.

Secretary Regan’s innovative leadership of Merrill Lynch was recognized by the board of editors of Fortune Magazine with the Hall of Fame for Business Leadership Award in March 1981.

Mr. Regan is the author of A View from the Street, an analysis of the events on Wall Street during the crisis years of 1969 and 1970, published in 1972 by the New American Library. He also authored many articles published in various financial and business publications.

Secretary Regan was a member of the Policy Committee of the Business Roundtable, a trustee of the Committee for Economic Development, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as Chairman of the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania from 1974 to 1978. He was awarded honorary degrees from four universities. He received the LL.D from the University of Pennsylvania on June 6, 1968, the LL.S from Tri-State College in Angola, Indiana, on December 20, 1969; the LL.S from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 28, 1972, and the Doctor of Commercial Science from the Advisory Council of Pace University in New York, New York on April 3, 1973.

Mr. Regan was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on December 21, 1918. He graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in 1940, joined the United States Marine Corps, and retired at the end of World War II as a Lieutenant Colonel. He and his wife, the former Ann Buchanan, of Washington, D.C., had four children. Donald T. Regan died on June 10, 2003.

WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia – Donald T. Regan, who served as former President Ronald Reagan’s first secretary of the Treasury, died today of cancer at a hospital near his home. He was 83.

A World War II-era Marine, Regan was known for a sometimes-autocratic style that, while serving him well as a secretary of the Treasury, created problems when he and White House Chief of Staff James A. Baker III swapped jobs in 1985. Once inside the White House, Regan’s strong management style created conflicts with the president’s inner circle, most notably with first lady Nancy Reagan, who is widely viewed as having been the driving force behind Regan’s 1987 resignation.

It was during Regan’s time as chief of staff that Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met for the first of many high-level summits. Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, the two world leaders inaugurated a personal relationship that had much to do with ending the Cold War.

It was during his tenure that the seeds of the scandal later known as the Iran-Contra affair were sown. Though Regan was never accused of having actively participated in prohibited activities, the three-man commission appointed by the president to investigate the matter blamed him for the “chaos” inside the White House that allowed the elements to occur.

Regan resigned in February 1987 and was replaced by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker.

As Treasury secretary, Regan played an important role in securing passage of the landmark 1981 Reagan tax cuts that reduced marginal tax rates across the board and sparked a period of record economic growth.

Treasury Secretary John Snow said in a statement that Regan “will be remembered as a great Treasury secretary and an innovative leader of the American business community. Many at Treasury will miss him.”

Regan, in his memoirs, revealed that Mrs. Reagan had consulted with an astrologer while her husband was president. The revelation, which proved embarrassing to the first couple, was widely considered payback for her role in his ouster.

Upon learning of Regan’s death, however, Mrs. Reagan expressed sadness. “From the Marine Corps to Wall Street to the Treasury Department to the White House, Don served this country with great distinction,” she said.

In 1946, Regan began his career in finance as an account executive trainee with Merrill Lynch, rising through the ranks to become board chairman and chief executive officer of the firm from 1971 until 1980, when he left to join the Reagan administration.

Regan led Merrill Lynch into public ownership and broadened it into a full-service financial provider. According to a company statement, the hallmark of his tenure and a “major step” in the firm’s evolution was the 1977 creation of “the innovative, ground-breaking Cash Management Account, which brought all customer assets under a single account.”

Edward F. Ryan, Regan’s longtime friend, fellow Marine and training school classmate, and Merrill Lynch’s first chief financial officer, cited Regan’s “natural instincts to be a leader,” in a statement released by the company. “He had a good overall grasp of where Merrill Lynch was to go. He was not easily deterred by potholes in the road,” Ryan said.

Born in Cambridge, Mass., Regan joined the Marine Corps in 1940. Assigned to the Pacific, Regan saw action in five major campaigns, including Guadalcanal, the North Solomons and Okinawa. In his final assignment he commanded a 1,200-man anti-aircraft battalion. He retired at war’s end as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Regan is survived by his wife, the former Ann Buchanan, and four children.

Donald T. Regan, the Wall Street innovator who led Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER) during the 1970s and later served as U.S. Treasury Secretary and Chief of Staff to President Ronald Reagan, died on Tuesday (10 June, 2003). He was 84 years old.

As the board chairman and chief executive officer for Merrill Lynch from 1971 to 1980, Regan led the company into public ownership and broadened it from a brokerage house to a full-service financial provider. The major step in this process was the creation in 1977 of the innovative, ground-breaking Cash Management Account(R), which brought all customer assets under a single account.

Regan also was a spokesman for reform on Wall Street and a persistent critic of the New York Stock Exchange. He was an ardent opponent of fixed brokerage commissions, and he was instrumental in their abolition in 1975.

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II, Regan joined the firm now known as Merrill Lynch in 1946, and he was a member of the second class to graduate from the Merrill Lynch Training School. He was assigned as an account executive in the Washington, D.C., sales office, but in 1948 he was one of 10 AE’s named to a special sales promotion team that went to every branch office in the United States to teach new sales techniques. He was promoted to manager of the Over-the-Counter Department in New York in 1952, and two years later he became a general partner. At 35 years old, he was the youngest general partner in company history.

Regan’s next assignment was resident partner in charge of the Philadelphia office. He returned to New York in 1960 to take over as the firm’s administrative division director, where he created the firm’s Planning Department, the first such unit in the entire securities industry. He was named executive vice president for Marketing-Sales in 1964, and four years later he was elected president. On 1 January 1971, Regan became chairman of the board and chief executive officer.

Edward F. Ryan, Regan’s longtime friend, fellow Marine and training school classmate, and Merrill Lynch’s first chief financial officer, cited Regan’s “natural instincts to be a leader. He had a good overall grasp of where Merrill Lynch was to go. He was not easily deterred by potholes in the road.”

Regan’s innovative leadership of Merrill Lynch was recognized by the board of editors of Fortune magazine with the Hall of Fame for Business Leadership Award in March 1981.

Donald Thomas Regan was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 21 December 1918. Nine months later, his father was fired by then Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge as part of the Boston police strike in 1919; his 33-year-old father was left jobless with a wife and two young boys for more than a year. In his 1988 biography, For the Record, Regan remembered that he was expelled from the kindergarten class after advising his teacher she was a poor manager and recommending that she “reorganize the class along more sensible lines devised by myself.”

But Regan quickly resumed his education, and he won a partial scholarship to Harvard University. He earned the rest of his tuition by starting a guide service for Boston tourists that eventually had 10 employees. He majored in English and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1940. He voted for Wendell Willkie in the 1940 presidential election, breaking with a strong Democratic tradition in the Regan family.

Regan enrolled in the Harvard Law School, but he cut short his studies after less than a year to begin training in the U.S. Marine Corps’ Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia. It was there that he met and fell in love with Ann Buchanan, and the couple was married in 1942. Regan served as a Marine officer for 33 months in the Pacific Theater and saw action in five major campaigns: Guadalcanal, New Georgia, the North Solomons, Guam and Okinawa. In his final assignment, he commanded a 1,200-man anti-aircraft battalion. His final rank was Lieutenant Colonel.

Regan dropped his plans to be a lawyer to pursue a business career. He had job offers from three firms — Mobil Oil, the Muzak Corporation and Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Beane — as the company was known in 1946. He chose Merrill Lynch because it had a training program. Regan’s abilities quickly earned him the attention of company leaders, including founder Charles E. Merrill himself, and he moved rapidly up the corporate ladder.

When he became chairman at the age of 52, he set the company on a course of diversification to lessen its vulnerability to the fluctuations of the stock and bond markets. Other Wall Street brokerage soon would follow the firm’s lead. He led the battle to have brokerage firms go public, and he prepared ML for the abolition of fixed commissions on stock sales in 1975.

Regan devoted much of his time to industry-wide affairs as one of the original directors of the Securities Investment Protection Corporation and, from 1973 to 1975, as vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. He campaigned vigorously for improved recognition of investors’ rights and needs, for a more competitive industry and for an end to unsound industry practices.

He was skillful in cultivating the media and getting out his message. One reason for his popularity with the press was his straightforward — some would say blunt — approach and his ability to provide a memorable phrase. For example, testifying before a Congressional committee, Regan was asked to explain his company’s recommendation for a stock that later dipped significantly in value. Regan’s total response: “We goofed.”

He was a vociferous critic of the U.S. federal tax system, which he likened to a Rube Goldberg creation. Regan’s “supply-side” economic philosophy came to the attention of Ronald Reagan and, in January 1981, the new President named him Secretary of the Treasury. From this position, he helped engineer tax reform, including reduced income tax rates, a lowered capital gains tax and accelerated depreciation rates for businesses. Regan’s overall plan was to increase the availability of capital to business and thereby to attack the major problems of low productivity and plant obsolescence.

In 1984, Regan suggested to the then Chief of Staff, James Baker, they swap jobs. Baker agreed, and Reagan approved the idea. “I just blurted the idea out,” Regan recalled. “People thought I was being Machiavellian, but it just popped into my mind. When we went to tell the President, Baker and his deputy, (Michael) Deaver, left it to me to speak up. Afterwards, I called them cowards. I said, ‘Neither one of you had the guts to bring it up.’ Anyway, it was a good move for James and it was a good move for me.” Regan was forced to resign from the White House in 1987 in the wake of the Iran “arms for hostages” controversy.

The following year, Regan published his memoirs, For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington. The former English major’s book rose to the top of several best-seller lists and received considerable media attention.

In retirement, Regan took up painting in a studio at his Williamsburg, Virginia, home. “After Wall Street and the government, I decided there had to be more to life than the stock market, golf and drinking,” he explained. Within a few years, he was a celebrated landscape artist. Wally Findlay Galleries presented his first exhibition at Palm Beach, Florida, in 1999. His oils sold out there and at exhibitions in New York and Chicago.

Regan is survived by his wife of 60 years, Ann Buchanan Regan of Williamsburg, Virginia; his children Donna Regan Lefeve of Alexandria, Virginia, Donald T. (Tom) Regan Jr. of Sarasota, Florida, Richard W. Regan of Denver, Colorado, Diane Regan Doniger of Santa Fe, New Mexico; and nine grandchildren.



  • DATE OF BIRTH: 12/21/1918
  • DATE OF DEATH: 06/10/2003

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