Hull was born in Pickett County, Tennessee. He attended National Normal University in Lebanon, Ohio, from 1889 until 1890. He served as delegate to the Tennessee Democratic Convention in 1890. At the age of 19, Hull was elected Chairman of the Clay County Democratic Party. In 1891, he graduated from Cumberland University law School and was admitted to the bar the same year. His political career began in the State House of Representatives, in 1893 in which he served until 1897.
From 1903 until 1907, Hull served as judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of Tennessee. After this, he became a member of the United States House of Representatives where he served two terms (1907-1921 and 1923-1931) totalling 22 years. (This was interrupted only by two years when he served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.) While a representative, he fought for low tariffs, and authored the first Federal Income Tax Bill in 1913 (as well as a revision of that bill in 1916) and the Federal and State Inheritance Tax Law in 1916. He left the House for the Senate in 1931, only to be named Secretary of State in FDR's first administration in 1933. His policies encouraged trade and helped to lower tariffs, and his cautionary approach to the developments in Eastern Asia in the 1930s helped prepare the U.S. government for the war with Japan. In his role as Secretary of State, he was integrally involved in the unsuccessful attempt at a peaceful diplomatic resolution with the Empire of Japan in 1940-1941; assessments of Hull's efforts range widely among historians, from lauding his work as strong and necessary to deriding it as overly aggressive and war-inciting. In 1943, Hull served as United States delegate to the Moscow Conference . He was instrumental in having Wernher von Braun, a German rocket scientist, and his team form the foundation of Americas post-war rocketry program, in Operation Paperclip.
Hull is most noted for being one of the conceivers and most ardent supporters of the United Nations. He was the main figure pushing the State Department to write the "Charter of the United Nations", which it accomplished by mid-1943. Hull resigned the position of Secretary of State in November, 1944 because of failing health—Roosevelt said upon Hull's departure that he was "the one person in all the world who has done this most to make this great plan for peace [the United Nations] an effective fact". Hull was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 in recognition of his efforts for peace and understanding in the Western Hemisphere, his many international trade agreements, and his work to establish the United Nations. Many observers believe that Hull's dedication to bipartisanship was responsible for the Republican Party's support of the United States' entry into the United Nations (the Republicans had previously prevented U.S. entry into the League of Nations).
When he left the position of Secretary of State in 1944, he had served 11 years, 9 months in that position—a longer term at Secretary of State than any American, before or since.
Henry L. Stimson
|United States Secretary of State||
Edward Stettinius Jr.