The Legacy Of
Cordell Hull

Early Life of Cordell Hull
Cordell Hull (October 2, 1871-July 23, 1955) was born in a log cabin in present day Pickett County, Tennessee (Overton County until 1879), the third of the five sons of William and Elizabeth (Riley) Hull. His father was a farmer and subsequently a lumber merchant. The only one of the five boys who showed an interest in learning, Cordell wanted to be a lawyer. He obtained his elementary school training in a one-room school that his father had built in nearby Willow Grove; then for a period of about three years, he attended in succession the Mountvale Academy at Celina, Tennessee, the Normal School at Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the National Normal University at Lebanon, Ohio. He received a law degree in 1891 after completing a one-year course at Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee.

Not yet twenty, Hull began the practice of law in Celina, but having participated in political campaigning even while a student, decided to run for the state legislature. From 1893 to 1897 he was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, abandoning politics temporarily to serve as captain of the Fourth Tennessee Regiment in the Spanish-American War. Hull returned to the practice of law in Gainesboro, Tennessee, but in 1903 was appointed Judge of the Fifth Judicial District. He held his position until 1907.

Hull's Public Life
Elected to Congress from the Fourth Tennessee District in 1907, Hull served as a U.S. Representative until 1931, interrupted only by two years as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In his distinguished career in Congress, Hull was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee for eighteen years, leader of the movement for low tariffs, the author of the first Federal Income Tax Bill (1913), the Revised Act (1916), and the Federal and State Inheritance Tax Law (1916), as well as the drafter of a resolution providing for the convening of a world trade agreement congress at the end of World War I. He became a recognized expert in commercial and fiscal policies.

Hull was elected U.S. Senator for the 1931-1937 term but resigned upon his appointment as secretary of state by the age of sixty-two. In 1944 when he resigned because of ill health, he had occupied this post for almost twelve years, the longest tenure in American History.

He headed the American Delegation to the Monetary and Economic Conference in London in July 1933, a conference which ended in failure. Despite this failure, in November of that year he headed the American Delegation to the Seventh Pan-American Conference, held in Montevideo Uraguay, and there won the trust of the Latin American diplomats, laying the foundation for the "Good Neighbor" Policy, followed up in the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace held in Buenos Aires (1936) , the eighth Pan-American Conference in Lima (1938), the second consecutive Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics in Havana (1940). Given authority through the Trade Agreements Act of 1934, he negotiated reciprocal trade agreements with numerous countries, lowering tariffs and stimulating trade.


Hull was responsive to the problems arising in other parts of the globe. From 1936 on, foreseeing danger to peace in the rise of dictators, he advocated rearmament, pled for the implementation of a system of collective security, opposed Japanese encroachment into Indochina, warned all branches of the U.S. Military well in advance of the attack on Pearl Harbor to prepare to resist simultaneous, surprise attacks at various points.

The Seeds of the United Nations
Shortly after the outbreak of the war, Hull proposed the formation of a new world organization in which the United Stated would participate after the war. To accomplish this aim, in 1941 he formed an Advisory Committee on Postwar Foreign Policy composed of both Republicans and Democrats. Mindful of President Wilson's failure with the League of Nations, Hull took pains to keep discussion of the organization nonpartisan. By August, 1943, the State Department had drafted a document entitled "Charter of the United Nations," which became the basis for proposals submitted by the United States at the 1944 Dumbarton Oaks Conference. Ill health forced Hull to resign from office on November 27, 1944 before final ratification of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco. President Roosevelt praised Secretary Hull as "the one person in all the world who has done his most to make this great plan for peace an effective fact."

Prior to Secretary Hull's resignation, President Roosevelt offered him the Vice Presidency in his bid for election. Because of his health, Hull declined, and Harry Truman became Vice President.

The Nobel Peace Prize
Following nomination by Roosevelt, the Norwegian Nobel Committee presented the 1945 Nobel Prize for Peace to Hull in recognition of his work in the Western Hemispheres, for his International Trade Agreements, and for his efforts in establishing the United Nations. Too ill to receive the award in person, Hull sent a brief acceptance speech that was delivered by the United States Ambassador to Norway, Mr. Lithogow Osborne. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, Hull wrote:
"Under the ominous shadow which the Second World War and its attendant circumstances have cast on the world, peace has become as essential to civilized existence as the air we breathe is to life itself. There is no greater responsibility resting upon peoples and governments everywhere, than to make sure that enduring peace will this time...at long last...be established and maintained...The searing lessons of this latest war and the promise of the United Nations Organization will be the cornerstones of a new edifice of enduring peace and the guideposts of a new era of human progress."

The Personal Life of Cordell Hull
Cordell Hull was a quiet,and dedicated man. His whole life was so immersed in politics that he did not get married until 1917 at age 46, when he married Rose Frances Witz.. He and Rose had no children. Hull hated the social life of Washington, preferring instead the simplicity of his private life and his other work. Other than a mild interest in golf and croquet, he spent little time on anything but his work.
His will provided the placing of the artifacts and books from his private apartment in a museum which was opened in Pickett County, Tennessee in September 1996. With financing from the State of Tennessee, this was made possible by his niece, Katherine Hull Ethridge, and the inexhaustible efforts of The Friends of Cordell Hull, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving his life and work.
Cordell Hull's nearly twelve-year tenure as Secretary of State has never been exceeded in length. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest Secretaries. British diplomat Lord Halifax, praised Hull as "a great example to statesmen of any country...universally respected, known, and trusted."

For More Information Call:

Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park
1300 Cordell Hull Memorial Drive
Byrdstown, TN 38549
Telephone: (931) 864-3247
Contact Robin Peeler
or Charles Sears
Friends of Cordell Hull!

Byrdstown Pickett County Chamber of Commerce
Toll Free -
1-888-406-4704 or
Contact the Chamber by e-mail!


© Cordell Hull Birthplace Museum State Park 2007


page last updated April 10, 2008