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V. Orval Watts; Chamber of Commerce Economist


V. Orval Watts, the first full-time economist employed by a chamber of commerce in the United States, has died in Palm Springs at the age of 95.

Watts, who died Tuesday, was named in 1939 as economic counsel for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, which at the time was the largest organization of its kind in the world. He continued in the position until 1946, when he became editorial director for the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Before the United States was thrust into World War II, Watts advised businessmen convening in Los Angeles that "Europe's war" should teach Americans four things--to avoid war, to avoid monopolies and price-fixing, to avoid restrictions on trade and output designed to make work or maintain prices, and to remember that credit is sound only when based on production.

Once the United States was in the war, Watts repeatedly cautioned that wartime inflation created only the illusion of prosperity rather than actual prosperity.

Vervon Orval Willard Watts was born March 25, 1898, in Manitoba, Canada, and earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Manitoba in 1918. He later earned master's and doctoral degrees in economics at Harvard University.

He taught for more than six decades--at Gilbert Plains High School in Ontario, Canada; Clark University; Harvard; Wellesley; Antioch College; Carlton College; Claremont Men's College; Pepperdine University, and Campbell College. He was professor emeritus of Northwood University, where he served as director of economic education and chairman of the Division of Social Studies from 1963 to 1984.

Watts also served during the 1950s as economic counsel for Southern California Edison, Pacific Mutual and other companies in Los Angeles. He contributed regularly to publications such as "Christian Economics," "The Freeman" and "National Review."

His books included "Why Are We So Prosperous?" in 1938, "Do We Want Free Enterprise?" in 1944, "Away from Freedom" in 1952, "Union Monopoly" in 1954, "United Nations: Planned Tyranny" in 1955, "Free Markets or Famine" in 1967 and "Politics vs. Prosperity" in 1976.

Watts is survived by his wife, Carolyn Magill Watts; a son, Thomas; daughters Joan Carter, Carol Higdon and Louise Crandall; nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made to the Orval Watts Scholarship Fund, Northwood University, Midland, MI 48640.

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