Herbert Brownell, Jr.

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Herbert Brownell, Jr.
62nd United States Attorney General
In office
January 21, 1953 – October 23, 1957
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Deputy William P. Rogers
Preceded by James P. McGranery
Succeeded by William P. Rogers
35th Chairman of the Republican National Committee
In office
1944–1946
Preceded by Harrison E. Spangler
Succeeded by B. Carroll Reece
Personal details
Born (1904-02-20)February 20, 1904
Nemaha County, Nebraska, U.S.
Died May 1, 1996(1996-05-01) (aged 92)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Resting place Unknown
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Doris McCarter Brownell
(m. 1934 - 1979, her death)
Marion Taylor Brownell
(m. 1987 - 1989, divorced)
Children Joan Brownell
Ann Brownell
Thomas McCarter Brownell
James Barker Brownell
Alma mater University of Nebraska,
Yale Law School
Profession Lawyer, politician

Herbert Brownell, Jr. (February 20, 1904 – May 1, 1996), was from 1953 to 1957 the Attorney General in the administration of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Brownell, one of the seven children of Herbert and May Miller Brownell, was born in Nemaha County, Nebraska near the town of Peru. His father, Herbert Brownell, Sr., was a professor and author at the University of Nebraska, Teachers College in education and physical sciences. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Nebraska in 1924, and, in his senior year, being a member of the Society of Innocents, Brownell attended Yale Law School, earning his law degree in 1927. While at the University of Nebraska he joined The Delta Upsilon Fraternity.

Brownell's brother, Samuel Brownell, served as U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1953 through 1956. Susan B. Anthony was Herbert Brownell's cousin.

Career[edit]

Brownell was admitted to the bar in New York, and began his practice in New York City. In February 1929, he joined the law firm of Lord Day & Lord in New York, and except for periods of public service remained with them until his retirement in 1989. He married Doris McCarter on June 16, 1934. They had four children and remained together, (Joan Brownell, Ann Brownell, Thomas McCarter Brownell, and James Barker Brownell). McCarter become as Eisenhower administration. After McCarter death on June 12, 1979. In 1987, Brownell remarried to the second wife Marion Taylor, but the couple separated in December 1989 and divorced.

Besides his law practice, Brownell had a long and active political career as a Republican. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (New York Co., 10th D.) in 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1937. In 1942, he was the campaign manager for Thomas E. Dewey's election as governor of New York. He also managed Dewey's 1944 and 1948 campaigns for president. From 1944 to 1946 he was chairman of the Republican National Committee, where he focused on modernizing the RNC with advanced polling methods and fundraising techniques. He was credited by many as being instrumental in helping the Republicans to gain control of the United States Congress in the 1946 off-year elections.

Political career[edit]

Brownell was instrumental in convincing General Dwight D. Eisenhower to run for President of the United States, and worked in Eisenhower's 1952 campaign. Along with Thomas Dewey, Brownell was instrumental in Eisenhower's selection of Richard Nixon as his vice-presidential running mate. (Source: Earl Mazo, "Richard Nixon: A Political & Personal Portrait," p. 89, 96). Brownell was to Eisenhower appointed him to as Attorney General from January 21, 1953 and he served until October 23, 1957. Early in his term, he was involved in several landmark civil rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. Although it was weakened by the United States Senate, he drafted the legislative proposal that ultimately became the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which was the first civil rights law enacted since 1875. Because of his strong stance in favor of civil rights, Brownell became very unpopular in the South. Eisenhower wished to nominate Brownell to the Supreme Court when vacancies occurred in 1957 and 1958 but felt he could not because segregationists in the Senate would fight and defeat the nomination.

Brownell stepped down as attorney general only after his advice was followed in the Little Rock desegregation case. Osro Cobb, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, reflects on Brownell's tenure:

...Brownell had stuck by his guns for the hard line on the integration dispute. His advice had been followed. The government was committed with no easy way to extricate itself. Many people on both sides of the controversy were becoming increasingly unhappy. I am inclined to believe that while Mr. Brownell was genuinely pleased with the policy, he was grievously disappointed that it had not achieved better results. The impasse with Governor Orval Faubus may have contributed substantially to his decision to retire. We may not get the answer until and if he writes his memoirs, but I doubt it even then because the Herbert Brownell I grew to know would not write about his personal secrets. Mr. Brownell was both praised and condemned as he departed from office....[1]

Brownell also took himself out of the running for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to replace Earl Warren in 1969 with the eventual replacement being Warren E. Burger.[2]

Brownell later served as the United States representative to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and from 1972 to 1974, he was special U.S. envoy to Mexico for negotiations over the Colorado River.

In addition to many honors and other civic roles, Brownell was President of the New York City Bar Association in 1982. From 1986 to 1989 he served on the Commission for the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. He died of cancer at the New York Hospital Cornell-Medical Center in Manhattan, New York on May 1, 1996, at the age of ninety-two.

Further reading[edit]

  • Herbert Brownell and John P. Burke; Advising Ike: The Memoirs of Attorney General Herbert Brownell; 1993, University of Kansas Press; ISBN 0-7006-0590-8.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

New York Assembly
Preceded by
Langdon W. Post
New York State Assembly
New York County, 10th District

1933–1937
Succeeded by
MacNeil Mitchell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Harrison E. Spangler
Chairman of the Republican National Committee
1944–1946
Succeeded by
B. Carroll Reece
Legal offices
Preceded by
James P. McGranery
U.S. Attorney General
Served under: Dwight D. Eisenhower

1953–1957
Succeeded by
William P. Rogers