Herbert Pell

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Herbert Pell
Herbert C. Pell.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 17th district
In office
March 4, 1919 – March 3, 1921
Preceded by John F. Carew
Succeeded by Ogden L. Mills
Personal details
Born Herbert Claiborne Pell, Jr.
(1884-02-16)February 16, 1884
Brooklyn, New York
Died July 17, 1961(1961-07-17) (aged 77)
Munich, Germany
Spouse(s) Matilda Bigelow Pendleton, Olive Bigelow
Children Claiborne Pell
Alma mater Harvard University
Columbia University
Occupation Ambassador
Religion Episcopalian

Herbert Claiborne Pell, Jr. (February 16, 1884 – July 17, 1961) was a United States Representative from New York, U.S. Minister to Portugal, U.S. Minister to Hungary, and an instigator and member of the United Nations War Crimes Commission.

Mr. Pell was an internationalist and progressive among a class of economic conservatives and geopolitical isolationists. He was the leading American seeking to build awareness of and prevent the Holocaust—and prosecute those responsible—as the principal U.S. sponsor and member of the United Nations War Crimes Commission. Mr. Pell had extensive first-hand experience in international affairs, having lived many years in Europe. He also served on the advisory committee of Yenching University, later merged with Peking University.


Born in New York City, he was a great-grandson of John Francis Hamtramck Claiborne, and great-great-grandnephew of William Charles Cole Claiborne and Nathaniel Herbert Claiborne. Through his mother, Katherine Lorillard Kernochan, he inherited a share of the Lorillard fortune. He was educated at Pomfret School (Connecticut), Harvard University, and Columbia University, but did not complete a degree.

He married Matilda, daughter of Nelson Pendleton Bigelow. He later married the portraitist[1] Olive Bigelow Pell.[2] He is the father of U.S. Senator Claiborne de Borda Pell and great-grandfather of Herbert Claiborne Pell IV.

Political career[edit]

Pell's political career began as a member of the Progressive committee of Orange County, New York (1912 to 1914). He was elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-sixth Congress (March 4, 1919 – March 3, 1921) and was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1920 to the Sixty-seventh Congress. He was chairman of the Democratic State committee from 1921 to 1926 and a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1924. Pell was an occasional lecturer at Columbia University, Harvard University, and other institutions of learning, and in 1936 was vice chairman of the Democratic National Campaign Committee.

Pell was appointed from Rhode Island as Minister to Portugal, holding that office from May 27, 1937, until February 11, 1941, when he was appointed Minister to Hungary. He was serving in Budapest on December 13, 1941 when he received the Hungarian declaration of war against the United States. He closed the legation in Budapest and returned to the U.S. on January 16, 1942 and submitted his resignation on November 30, 1942. He was United States representative on the United Nations War Crimes Commission from August 1943 to January 1945.


Ambassador Herbert C. Pell died on July 17, 1961 in Munich, Germany at the age of 77. His funeral was held at Trinity Church in Newport, Rhode Island where there is a memorial plaque in his honor.

His ashes were committed to the ocean off Beavertail in Jamestown, Rhode Island.


The Herbert Pell Cup in yachting is named for Pell.


  1. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1989-12-17/entertainment/ca-1640_1_arts-caucus
  2. ^ "A Certain Amount of Tactful Undermining: Herbert C. Pell and Hungary in 1941" The Hungarian Quarterly, VOLUME LII, No. 202-203, Summer-Autumn 2011, http://www.hungarianquarterly.com/no202203/14.shtml


Herbert Claiborne Pell, “Preparing for the Next War,” American Mercury, v. 23, no.92 (August 1931) 455-463.


External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John F. Carew
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 17th congressional district

Succeeded by
Ogden L. Mills
Party political offices
Preceded by
William W. Farley
New York State Democratic Committee Chairman
July 1921 – January 1926
Succeeded by
Edwin Corning
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert Granville Caldwell
U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and
Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal

Succeeded by
Bert Fish
Preceded by
John Flournoy Montgomery
U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and
Minister Plenipotentiary to Hungary

Succeeded by
None – Legation closed
December 1941