The Legacy and Contribution of Cordell Hull
His Early Life
Cordell Hull was born on October 2, 1871 in the family of William and Elizabeth (Riley) Hull in Overton County (present day Pickett County, Tennessee). He was the third of five sons but only he was very good at learning. Cordell dreamt to become a lawyer. At first he studied in a one-room school that his father who was a farmer and later a lumber merchant had constructed in Willow Grove located nearby. Having obtained elementary education there he then studied at the Mountvale Academy at Celina, Tennessee, the Normal School at Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the National Normal University at Lebanon, Ohio. In 1891 he was awarded a law degree after graduating from Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee.
When Hull was about twenty, he started the practice of law in Celina. When a student he took part in political campaigning, so he decided to run for the state legislature. From 1893 to 1897 he was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, but during the Spanish-American War he left politics temporarily to take part in the military campaign as captain of the Fourth Tennessee Regiment. When the war was over Hull returned to the practice of law in Gainesboro, Tennessee. From 1903 to 1907 he was a Judge of the Fifth Judicial District.
Hull's Public Life
Hull had a distinguished political career. He was elected to Congress from the Fourth Tennessee District in 1907. His tenure as a U.S. Representative that continued until 1931 was interrupted just by two years as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. While in Congress Cordell Hull was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee for eighteen years. He initiated the movement for low tariffs and was the author of the first Federal Income Tax Bill of 1913, the Revised Act (1916), as well as the Federal and State Inheritance Tax Law (1916). He also drafted a resolution calling for the convening of a world trade agreement congress when World War I was over. He gained the reputation of an internationally acclaimed expert in commercial and fiscal policies.
In 1931 Hull was elected U.S. Senator but resigned when he was appointed the Secretary of State. In 1944 he had to resign from his office because of health issues. He had been the Secretary of State for almost twelve years, the longest tenure in the history of America.
Hull played a key role in international politics as well. In July 1933 he headed the American Delegation to the Monetary and Economic Conference held in London. Even though the conference ended in failure in November of that year he became the head of the American Delegation to the Seventh Pan-American Conference that took place in Montevideo Uraguay. There he managed to gain the trust of the Latin American diplomats and the success of this conference paved the way for the "Good Neighbor" Policy. It was Hull who negotiated reciprocal trade agreements with a range of countries that would reduce tariffs and stimulate trade.
Hull was not indifferent to the problems arising overseas. He considered the rise of dictators dangerous for the peace in the world and since 1936 he called for rearmament and the implementation of a system of collective security. He was against Japanese invasion into Indochina and warned the U.S. Military about the need to prepare to resist surprise attacks.
The United Nations
When World War I broke out, Hull expressed the idea of creating a new world organization which the United Stated would join after the war is over. To accomplish this goal, in 1941 he organized an Advisory Committee on Postwar Foreign Policy with both Republicans and Democrats as members. By August, 1943, the State Department had drafted "Charter of the United Nations," which served as the basis for proposals the USA submitted at the 1944 Dumbarton Oaks Conference. Unfortunately ill health prevented Hull to continue his work and he had to resign from office in November 1944 before the United Nations Charter was finally ratified in San Francisco. President Roosevelt appreciated the contribution of Secretary Hull who has done his most to make the idea of establishing the United Nations a reality. Before Secretary Hull resigned, President Roosevelt offered him to become the Vice President but Hull refused because of his health, and Harry Truman occupied the high office of Vice President.
The Nobel Peace Prize
In 1945 Hull was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of his outstanding achievements and great work in the Western Hemispheres, for his International Trade Agreements, and for his efforts in creating the United Nations.
The Personal Life of Cordell Hull
Cordell Hull was a quiet and devoted person. His was so involved in politics that he married only in 1917 at the age of 46 to Rose Frances Witz. They had no children. Hull found his busy social life of Washington tiresome and loved the joys of simple life as well as his other work. He was interested in golf and croquet, but most of the time he was busy working.
According to his will the artifacts and books from his private collection were to be exhibited in a museum. The State of Tennessee financed the opening of the museum in Pickett County, Tennessee, but this was possible only in September 1996 due to the efforts of Hull's niece Katherine Hull Ethridge and The Friends of Cordell Hull, a nonprofit organization committed to preserving his life and work. Cordell Hull has the longest tenure as Secretary of State in American history. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest Secretaries and diplomats, universally respected and trusted.