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
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
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
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
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
Contact the Chamber by e-mail!
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