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Richard H. Holton, 79; UC Berkeley Economist Served Two Presidents

November 01, 2005|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Richard H. Holton, a UC Berkeley economist and marketing expert who worked in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, has died. He was 79.

Holton died Oct. 24 at his Berkeley home of complications from cancer and Parkinson's disease, university officials announced.

Holton spent most of his career as an academic but went to Washington in late 1962 and remained through 1965 as assistant secretary of commerce for economic affairs.

Appointed by President Kennedy and continuing to serve under President Johnson, Holton was considered the first professional economist to hold a junior Cabinet post in the Commerce Department.

During his tenure, he was in charge of the Office of Business Economics and the Census Bureau. An expert in business and economic research, he worked to make Commerce Department facts and figures more readily available to businesses.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 02, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Holton obituary -- The obituary of UC Berkeley economist Richard H. Holton in Tuesday's California section was accompanied by a photograph of John V. Wehausen, another UC Berkeley professor who recently died. Holton is pictured here.

He also tried to help business managers understand and cope with the rising tide of consumer activism in the 1960s. At a Western regional convention of the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies in Coronado, he urged management to "modernize and expand consumer education ... be sure that the retailer and service people with whom the consumer comes in contact are performing up to par ... [and] reinforce available means of getting feedback from consumers."

After Holton left office, Johnson appointed him chairman of the President's Consumer Advisory Council, and in 1966 Holton signed its report critical of the automobile industry. The report said the industry misled customers with advertising that stressed "sex, status, thrills and luxury" over safety, charged exorbitant interest rates and equipped new vehicles with inferior tires to reduce costs.

From 1968 to 1972, Holton was the chairman of the Public Advisory Committee on truth-in-lending regulations for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve system.

Holton joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1957 and served as dean of the Haas School of Business from 1967 to 1975. Continuing to teach part time after his official retirement in 1991, he was credited with starting innovative courses in entrepreneurship and business development and in international business studies.

An expert on international business development, Holton conducted marketing research at the University of Puerto Rico at the beginning of his career in 1951 and 1952, and co-wrote a 1955 monograph, "Marketing Efficiency in Puerto Rico," with economist and Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith. In 1959, Holton co-wrote with Richard Caves "The Canadian Economy: Prospect and Retrospect."

From 1981 to 1985, Holton served as dean of the American faculty of the National Center for Industrial Science and Technology Management Development, part of China's Dalian Institute of Technology. He also wrote several articles about business and industrial development in China and co-edited the book "United States-China Relations."

Brought up in London, Ohio, Holton earned a bachelor's in economics from Miami University of Ohio, a master's from Ohio State University and a doctorate from Harvard University. He taught at Ohio State and Harvard before moving to Berkeley.

Holton is survived by his wife of 58 years, Constance; three children, Tim, Melissa Holton and Jane Kriss; one brother, David; and three grandchildren.

The family has asked that any memorial donations be sent to Doctors Without Borders.

A campus memorial is scheduled at 1 p.m. Nov. 20 at the UC Berkeley Faculty Club.

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