Tag Archives: United Nations

Cordell Hull – Peacemaker

30 Oct

Last year, I was asked to write an article about Cordell Hull for the Tennessee Baptist History Journal. During the process, I did quite a bit of research. However, the best part of the assignment was the day I spent at his birthplace. My parents joined me on the drive through the backroads of Tennessee, and we spent the day looking at the scenery and talking about all kinds of things.

The article was recently published, but I could find no online resource. Instead of sharing a link, I decided to share the article. Oh, if you have never heard of Cordell Hull, then let me introduce you to the man.

In 2013, the State of Tennessee proposed the demolition of the Cordell Hull Building, which has housed government employees since the 1950s. Uproar ensued as preservationists and citizens expressed outrage toward the plan, and, after furious debate, state officials determined that renovation of the Cordell Hull Building was the best option.

Despite the intensity of the argument, few people mentioned the person for whom the building is named. Perhaps that was because Middle Tennessee is dotted with places named in his honor: Cordell Hull Dam, Cordell Hull Lake, Cordell Hull State Park. Perhaps it was because people who argued against the demolition of the building did not realize the important role he played in the history of the United States and the history of the world. As Harold B. Hinton wrote, “There are scores of Tennesseans who have helped mightily in the building of the United States, and Cordell Hull must be numbered among them.”[1]

On October 2, 1871, Cordell Hull was born in a log cabin on a twelve-acre farm rented by his sharecropper father, Billy.[2] In his memoirs, Hull described Olympus, the nearest community, as “the only store in the entire section. This was also the post office.”[3] This was also the rural setting from which he learned the value of hard work and from which his love for learning began.

Hull’s childhood was filled with days working with his siblings in his father’s fields. They cultivated oats, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, corn and made molasses to give all of that a sweeter flavor.[4] When his father bought a larger farm and built a store, Hull continued to assist the family economically. At age eleven, he clerked at the store, and, as Hull wrote, “Sometimes a customer would come in and ask for the man in charge. I would reply proudly, ‘I am the man in charge.’”[5] His father agreed, as he once stated, “Cord was always just like a grown man, from the time he could walk.”[6]

Hull also helped his mother, Elizabeth, with spinning, weaving and milking the cows.[7] However, it was from his mother that he gained his love for learning. Hull wrote:

With all her work, however, she taught us our A B C’s and the first portion of Noah Webster’s old blue-back speller, which was current for generations in all public schools. She required us children to read the Bible as much as possible, and she herself read it constantly.[8]

Obviously, religion played an important role in the daily life of the Hull family, and Cordell Hull looked fondly upon this foundation of his faith. In his memoirs, he recounted:

The people of our section were mostly Primitive Baptists and Methodists…We had to go between one and two miles to the Primitive Baptist church on Wolf River, though sometimes services were held in private homes. The preacher was generally a farmer who tried to make a living on a farm and also undertook to preach. He was known locally as “the preacher.” Members of the church gave a little toward paying the preacher but not much.[9]

Hull continued:

Sometimes they had a preacher come from a distance and then they held splendid meetings. People went to the church from far and near. They walked or rode on horseback or in wagons and carts. There were no buggies in the ridge country at that time. Young men joined up with girl friends and went together to church. The boys wore stiff-standing paper collars, which on hot days were pretty well wilted down by the time they got to church walking or riding. I shall never forget the solemnity and fervor with which those people sand the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.”[10]

He also remembered the important role of faith in local society when he wrote:

If a person was “skeptical,” he was promptly discovered and branded as an infidel, which rendered him somewhat unpopular and at that time deprived him of the right to testify under oath. Such persons were few and far between. The social life in the ridge country revolved largely around the church.[11]

Hull’s work ethic; thirst for knowledge; and strong faith served him well as his world expanded through higher education, but, at a time when rural families often chose one son to pursue a professional career, he first had to convince his father with what Hinton called “the most important speech in his life.”[12] Local parents established a debating society because, as Hull wrote, “they were deadly earnest that their children should get the utmost from their schooling.”[13] In 1885, Hull took his turn at the podium and argued that George Washington was more important to American history than Christopher Columbus. In front of a crowded room, he won the contest, and his father decided that his son “should go away to the best school he could afford,” which was the Montvale Institute in Celina, Tennessee.[14]

From Montvale, Cordell Hull matriculated to a normal school in Bowling Green, Kentucky and, after a few semesters, transferred to the National Normal University in Lebanon, Ohio.[15] Normal schools specialized in training students to become teachers. Despite this training, Hull wanted to study law, and his father rented an office in Celina where his son could begin reading the law.[16] Lawyers had been learning in this fashion for decades, however, in last decades of the 19th Century, the American Bar Association asserted that more rigorous training was needed.[17]

In 1891, Hull enrolled in the law school at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, an institution with the reputation of developing some of the nation’s best legal minds.[18] As Hinton wrote in his biography of Cordell Hull, “Ever since the Civil War many of the greatest figures in Tennessee’s legal and political life have had their principal training at Cumberland.”[19] Hull recalled, “When I went to Congress sixteen years later I found in Washington four or five Senators, one Justice of the Supreme Court and twelve to fifteen Congressmen who were graduates of Cumberland University.”[20]

In addition to his academic growth, Hull gained experience outside the classroom that prepared him for the future. At age fourteen, he attended his first court session and first became interested in law. At age seventeen, he read his first newspaper, the Nashville American and listened to the ideas of men who gathered at the general store. From them he learned that “a person can’t ever amount to something unless he stands for something.”[21]

When Hull traveled to Bowling Green, he rode a train for the first time, and, when he attended school in Lebanon, Ohio, he first experienced life outside of the South.[22] However, his political career began back home when he was asked to speak at a rally. The organizers ran out of speakers but remembered his previous debate performance. At age sixteen, Hull spoke in support of Grover Cleveland for president of the United States. Cleveland lost, but, a few years later, Hull was elected Chairman of the Clay County Democratic Committee.[23]

In 1892, Hull ran for the State Legislature. While not yet old enough to hold office, his birthday would come before the general election. Until that time, he had to face a formidable opponent for the Democratic nomination. Realizing that he could not win in a party convention, Hull maneuvered his opponent into a primary election. He bought and horse; stumped throughout four counties; and carried each one.[24] He also won the general election and served in the State House until 1897.[25]

At age thirty-one, Hull became judge of the Fifth Judicial District.[26] Despite the fact that he served for only four years, people called him “Judge” for the rest of his life. As Hinton wrote, “In talking to a considerable number of men throughout the region where he lived for thirty-five years, I heard only two call him by his first name…The rest called him judge.”[27] He continued, “Mrs. Hull learned to call her husband ‘Judge,’ which she does to this day when speaking of him.”[28]

Through his judgeship, Hull became well known throughout the region, and some Democrats believed he would be a strong candidate for Congress in the 1906 election. Facing a strong primary opponent, he traveled throughout the district and relied on his father’s vast friendships. Hull won by fifteen votes and easily carried the general election.[29] This began a twenty-four year career in the United States House of Representatives, broken only by a two year stint as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and placed him in position to impact the nation.[30]

In Cordell Hull: A Biography, Harold B. Hinton called Cordell Hull “Father of the Income Tax,” and the moniker is appropriate.[31] In 1907, Hull first introduced a comprehensive income tax bill but knew that it had little chance for passage. For years, he refined his plan and included it in as many speeches as possible. However, the Supreme Court had ruled the income tax unconstitutional.[32] Then, the political climate changed.

In 1912, Woodrow Wilson, who wanted a lower tariff and a new revenue stream in its place, won the presidency, and, a month before his inauguration, the constitutional amendment allowing an income tax was ratified. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Hull was tasked with writing a new bill and introducing it to Congress. The income tax became law in October 1913, and, in his memoirs, Hull wrote, “Today the principle is so widely accepted that it seems difficult to visualize the need for the immense struggles that occurred before its adoption.”[33]

In 1914, the First World War began, and Hull saw an opportunity. As he later wrote, “To me, the war, disastrous as it was in all respects, offered both tragedy and a springboard for constructive legislation.”[34] This meant the introduction of his bill to tax inheritance, a revenue stream that Hull had been studying for several years. In 1916, President Wilson signed the Federal and State Inheritance Law.[35]

The end of World War One brought victory to the United States and the Allies. However, due to disagreement in the United States over joining the League of Nations, it brought defeat to President Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic Party. For the next decade, the Republican Party dominated national politics, and Cordell Hull felt the effects of his party’s decline. He lost one election bid for the House of Representatives and, when he made a comeback, lacked the power that he once held.[36]

The opportunity for Hull’s reemergence came in the early 1930s. In 1929, the stock market crashed during the administration of President Herbert Hoover, a Republican, which provided the Democratic Party an opportunity to regain control. That same year, Tennessee Senator Lawrence Tyson passed away. Hull, who had often thought about running for the Senate, announced his candidacy for the seat.[37]

During the Democratic primary, Hull faced the Memphis-based political machine of Boss Ed Crump and accusations of being out of touch with Tennesseans. His opponents talked about his car having a Washington, D.C. license plate and about him needing a driver from Washington to take him over Tennessee roads. However, Hull’s popularity with the people and national Democratic leaders brought victory in the primary and in the general election.[38]

In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt won the presidential election, and a Democrat inhabited the White House for the first time in twelve years. Hull wrote, “At long last, my party was back in power and I felt confident that a fruitful period of work and accomplishment lay before me and those of similar views.”[39] Despite that remembrance, he could not have envisioned that he would become the longest-serving Secretary of State in the history of the United States.

According to Hinton, “Through the preconvention days of 1932 Senator Hull had probably been the closest Congressional adviser Governor Roosevelt had.”[40] This placed him in the forefront of the new president’s mind for a cabinet appointment, but Hull did not see himself as a candidate. As Hull described:

At that moment I was to experience a great surprise. Mr. Roosevelt stopped over in Washington in January on his way to Warm Springs, Georgia, and sent for me to call on him at the Mayflower Hotel. Then and there, without much introduction, he offered me the Secretaryship of State.[41]

For over a month, Hull contemplated the offer and wondered if he could accomplish more in the Senate or as a member of the president’s cabinet. In February, Hull met with Roosevelt and explained, “If I accept the Secretaryship of State, I do not have in mind the mere carrying on of correspondence with foreign governments.”[42] The president-elect agreed, and Hull accepted the offer.

On March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office and embarked on the longest and one of the most influential presidencies in American history.[43] On the same day, Cordell Hull took the oath for his office. Over the next decade, he faced economic decline throughout the world and the rise of dictatorships in Europe and Asia. However, he wanted to first become a good neighbor to the nations of Latin America.

The United States had a long policy of intervention in Latin America that caused feelings of resentment and distrust. Hull worked through these issues at the 1933 Pan-American Conference and laid the groundwork for Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy. He continued to strengthen this policy throughout the by working with diplomats at the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace in 1936 and at the Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics in 1940.[44]

Despite this success, turmoil and violence defined Hull’s term as Secretary of State. Fascist and dictatorial leaders bent on war gained power around the world, and he knew to observe them closely. Of Adolph Hitler, Hull wrote, “Right from the beginning we faced one problem after another in our relations with Germany.”[45] He also faced problems with Benito Mussolini of Italy, Hirohito of Japan and others as they took steps toward war.

In his memoirs, Hull wrote, “I made it clear that, if Europe and Asia took the courses which the Axis nations were charting for them, war was certain to engulf the world.”[46] On September 1, 1939, Cordell Hull was proven to be correct when Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. He spent the previous six years trying to prevent war. Now, Secretary Hull and President Roosevelt tried to steer the United States through war.

On September 5, Roosevelt declared the neutrality of the United States.[47] However, he and Hull knew that the nation must assist the fight to uphold democracy in Europe. After a political fight with isolationists, the Lend-Lease Act passed, and the administration gained the ability to ship weapons to nations fighting against the oppressive regimes.[48]

For two years, the United States assisted the Allies of Europe while watching the advances of Japan in Asia. As Hull wrote, “We considered Japan’s expansionist ambitions an eventual danger to our own safety.”[49] With that in mind, he spoke with Japanese delegates about protecting the sovereignty of Asian nations and the economic role of the United States in that part of the world. Those talks continued until December 7, 1941.

On that morning, Hull waited in his office for a meeting with representatives from Japan, but he first received a call from the president with news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. An hour later, the envoys arrived, and Hull admonished them for continuing talks of peace while planning an attack. He wrote, “I have seen it stated that I “cussed out” the Japanese envoys in rich Tennessee mountain language, but the fact is…no “cussing out” could have made it any stronger.”[50]

The next day, the United States declared war on Japan, and, a few days later, declared war on Germany and Italy. While Roosevelt planned for the fight, he directed Hull to plan for the peace. Thinking about Woodrow Wilson’s failure to convince the United States to join the League of Nations, Hull believed there needed to be “a viable and practical structure by which the peace of the world could be successfully maintained.”[51] He formed a committee of Democrats and Republicans to complete the task, and, in 1943, the State Department completed the “Charter of the United Nations.”[52]

Due to ill health, Hull retired and, while appointed to the American delegation, could not attend the first meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco.[53] However, President Roosevelt had already stated what everyone involved already knew. Cordell Hull was the “Father of the United Nations.”[54] In 1945, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace “in recognition of his work in the Western Hemispheres, for his international trade agreements, and for his efforts in establishing the United Nations.”[55]

On July 23, 1955, Cordell Hull passed away and left a legacy of public service that began in rural Tennessee and ended with an attempt to create everlasting peace for the world.[56] Hull must have been thinking of those days when he ended his memoirs by writing:

If we are willing from time to time to stop and appreciate our past, appraise our present and prepare for our future, I am convinced that the horizons of achievement still stretch before us like the unending Plains. And no achievement can be higher than that of working in harmony with other nations so that the lash of war may be lifted from our backs and a peace of lasting friendship descend upon us.[57]

     [1] Harold B. Hinton, Cordell Hull: A Biography (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1942), 4.

     [2] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park, Tour, July 30, 2016.

     [3] Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, vol. 1 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1948), 3.

     [4] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [5] Hull 1948, 12.

     [6] “The Hulls of Tennessee,” LIFE, March 18, 1940, 81.

     [7] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [8] Hull 1948, 5.

     [9] Ibid., 8.

     [10] Ibid., 8.

    [11] Ibid., 8.

     [12] Hinton 1942, 25.

     [13] Hull 1948, 14.

     [14] Ibid., 15.

     [15] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [16] Hinton 1942, 29.

     [17] Albert J. Harno, Legal Education in the United States: A Report for the Survey of the Legal Profession (1953), 19.

     [18] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [19] Hinton 1942, 30.

     [20] Hull 1948, 27.

     [21] Ibid., 24.

     [22] Ibid., 23.

     [23] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [24] Hull 1948, 29.

     [25] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [26] Hull 1948, 38.

     [27] Hinton 1942, 25.

     [28] Ibid., 10.

     [29] Hull 1948, 43.

     [30] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [31] Hinton 1942, 129.

     [32] Hull 1948, 48.

     [33] Ibid., 71.

     [34] Ibid., 75.

     [35] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [36] Hinton 1942, 166.

     [37] Hull 1948, 134.

     [38] Ibid., 136.

     [39] Ibid., 154.

     [40] Hinton 1942, 203.

     [41] Hull 1948, 156.

     [42] Ibid., 158.

     [43] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [44] Ibid.

     [45] Hull 1948, 236.

     [46] Ibid., 665.

     [47] Hinton 1942, 341.

     [48] Ibid., 348.

     [49] Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, vol. 2 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1948), 982.

     [50] Ibid., 1097.

     [51] Ibid., 1625.

     [52] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [53] Hull 1948, 1721.

     [54] Ibid., 1723.

     [55] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [56] Ibid.

     [57] Hull 1948, 1742.

Advertisements

The Legacy of the Phoenix

13 Jun

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that we attended the Phoenix Ball, an annual fundraiser for Cumberland University. For decades, the Phoenix has been the symbol of our institution. It is represented on the uniforms of our teams and is etched in the stained glass of Baird Chapel.Baird Chapel

This is strange to a lot of people because we are called the Bulldogs. They always ask why we have a bird as a symbol if our mascot is a dog. Well, this is why.

Cumberland University was founded in 1842 and quickly established itself as one of the best institutes of higher learning. Its claim to fame was having the first law school west of the Appalachian Mountains. However, problems arose in 1861 and the start of the Civil War. Most of the students and faculty enlisted in the armies of their states and made their way to the battlefields.

Eventually, the Civil War made its way to campus, and the original buildings were burned.Cumberland Original

Some say that the campus was burned by the Union army. Others say it was burned by the Confederates when they found out that the campus had been used to house African-American soldiers of the Union. It does not matter who did the deed. What matters is that Cumberland University no longer had a home.

When the war ended, the leadership of Cumberland University was determined that the school would continue. For years, classes were held in buildings around town. In 1892, the generosity of others allowed the university to purchase land for a new campus and build a new building. Memorial Hall was completed in 1896.Memorial Hall 2

The university was destroyed by fire and rose from the ashes. That is why the mythical Phoenix became the symbol of the university. However, the university has risen several times from the brink of disaster.

It survived the loss of support from both the Presbyterians and the Baptists.

It survived as students went off to more wars. In fact, it became the headquarters of the Tennessee Maneuvers that trained soldiers for the invasion of Europe in World War II.

It survived a tornado that ripped across Memorial Hall. The scars of its reconstruction can still be seen.

It survived the loss of its law school, which was renown for its graduates. One of those graduates was Cordell Hull, the Father of the United Nations.

It survived the move to become a junior college and returned to being a four-year institution in the 1980s.

Today, Cumberland University has the highest enrollment in its history. We offer undergraduate degrees in many disciplines. We also offer several graduate degrees.

As a graduate and faculty member at Cumberland University, I know the trials that the school has endured and its ability to survive and thrive. It is a special place with a long and proud history, and I can think of no better symbol than the Phoenix.

History is Local – Tennessee Style

30 Apr

Another academic year is coming to a close, and, over the past few days, I have been reflecting upon it. Things have gone decently, but this is the first year that I have wondered if anyone is listening. As usual, there have been some engaged students and some who would probably rather be somewhere else. However, I have gotten more frustrated this time than ever before.

At our university, all students are required to take two semesters of History, and I realize that most of them are taking it because they have to take it. They are not planning on being historians, museum curators, lawyers or any other of the great professions you can get with a History degree. Still, it would be nice if they did not stare out of the windows or sneakily play with their phones. Heck, it would be even nice if some of them brought paper and pencil to class.

Honestly, it gets frustrating. I may not get them to love the subject, but I want them to get something out of it. To accomplish this, I sprinkle some local history in with the American history. They may not be interested in the millworks of New England, but they may be interested in the millworks of our town. Simply, not all history takes place far away. Some of it takes place right around the corner in places they pass everyday.

That is why I throw as much Tennessee history into the mix as I can. This might perk them up, and it might help them realize that this state has played an important role in our nation’s past.Tennessee Flag

We cover the three Tennessee presidents – Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson – because presidents are important. Did you know that Polk is the president that brought California into the United States? Yep, a guy from Columbia, Tennessee did that.

However, I like to go deeper than that and talk about people who they may have never heard of.

Peter Burnett, a Tennessee native, was the first governor of California.

Grantland Rice, perhaps the greatest sportswriter to sit behind a typewriter, was from Murfreesboro. He wrote about the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame and a line that goes like this:

For when the One Great Scorer comes

To mark against your name,

He writes – not that you won or lost –

But how you played the game.

Cordell Hull, a graduate of Cumberland University (where I work), was known as the “Father of the United Nations” and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on that organization.

David Crockett, defender of the Alamo and hero to millions of kids in the 1950s, was a Tennessean.

Sam Houston, who led the rebel forces in the fight for Texas independence, had his first law office here in Lebanon.

W.E.B. DuBois graduated from Fisk University and taught school in Wilson County before going on to create the NAACP.

George Rappelyea thought of a publicity stunt to draw attention to his town of Dayton. They arrested John Scopes for teaching the theory of evolution and hosted the Scopes Monkey Trial, one of the many “Trials of the Century.” It sparked a debate that continues to this day.

John Butler, the legislator who sponsored the anti-evolution bill, represented the neighboring counties of Sumner, Trousdale and Macon.

Oak Ridge is a small town that came to prominence as one of the sites of the Manhattan Project, which brought us into the atomic age.

In 1920, legislative leaders met at the Hermitage Hotel to discuss voting for or against the 19th Amendment. It is a long story, but they eventually approved it. That made Tennessee the decisive state in women getting the right to vote.

John Chisum was born in Tennessee but gained notoriety as the “King of the Pecos”, one of the most successful cattlemen in the West.

I could name others, but these are a few that I can think of. I really think mentioning local people helps students learn a little more about American history. At least, I hope it does.

A Brief Look at the Historical Legacy of Lebanon, Tennessee

19 Aug

I just started a new book by Andrew Carroll called Here is Where, about a journey to find historic places that have been lost to, well, history. Although I am only a few pages in, it promises to be a good read about his journey to find these places and the people he met along the way.

It has also made me think about the history of my town. In class, we talk about the big events and people who took part in them, but history is local. There are a lot of amazing stories about people and events that we have never heard of. They are important to the towns in which they lived, but their notoriety doesn’t go past the city limits. My town is full of history.

Of course, some people don’t believe that. Several years ago, I was in a meeting, and a lady said that we had no history. That’s when I rattled off a list that included some of the following.

My workplace, Cumberland University was founded in 1842. Thousands of students have passed through its doors, but none are more important that Cordell Hull.Cordell Hull

Never heard of him? Well, he was Secretary of State under Franklin Roosevelt and known as the “Father of the United Nations”. He was also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Of course, his time as Secretary of State was in and around World War II. During that time, Cumberland University also played an important role as the headquarters of the Tennessee Maneuvers, a series of war games to prepare for the invasion of Europe. Soldiers fought battles and captures town all of Middle Tennessee. General George Patton was in charge of the Maneuvers and spent some time in town. I have heard that his private plane was still at the local airport when he was killed.George Patton

Another military leader started his career in town. Sam Houston opened his first law office on the square.Sam Houston

He went on to become governor of Tennessee, an office from which he would resign under mysterious circumstances. It was then that he went to Texas and became one of the leaders of the fight for independence from Mexico. After victory, Houston became the president of the nation of Texas and the governor of the state of Texas.

I always thought it was fitting that the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans. They were just coming back home.

Following the military theme, Castle Heights Military Academy opened in 1902 and was a top private school for decades. Kids were sent from all over the world for a regimental education. The local girls loved them. The local guys didn’t care for them all that much. Thousands of students marched the grounds of Castle Heights, and some of them became famous. Can you imagine Gregg and Duane Allman in a military school?Allman Brothers

Me neither. However, they spent time at Castle Heights.

Another famous rock star spent time here while he was doing some recording in Nashville. Paul McCartney showed up with Wings and stayed at a local farm.Paul McCartney

He even wrote a song about it.

The farm was owned, and is still owned by Curly Putman, who wrote “He Stopped Loving Her Today“, considered by most to be the best country song ever recorded.

Oh, there’s one more thing that is of some historic note. Cracker Barrel was founded here by Danny Evins, who started serving food to attract people to his gas station.Cracker Barrel

The next time you get Uncle Herschel’s breakfast you should remember that Uncle Herschel was from here, too.