Herbert Brownell

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Herbert Brownell, Jr.
Herbert Brownell.jpg
62nd Attorney General of the United States
From: January 21, 1953 – October 23, 1957
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Predecessor James P. McGranery
Successor William P. Rogers
Former Chair of the Republican
National Committee

From: April 1, 1946 – June 27, 1948
Predecessor Harrison E. Sprangler
Successor Brazilla Carroll Reece
Former State Representative from New York's 10th District
From: January 1, 1933 – December 31, 1937
Predecessor Langdon Post
Successor MacNeil Mitchell
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Doris A. McCarter (died 1979)
Marion "Riki" Taylor (div.)
Religion Methodist[1]

Herbert Brownell, Jr. (February 20, 1904 – May 1, 1996) was a lawyer and Republican civil rights hero from New York who served as the United States Attorney General under the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. He was previously the chair of the Republican National Committee during the mid-1940s, and a state representative preceding that.

Brownell is a distant relative of women's suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony.[2]


He was born in Peru, Nebraska on February 20, 1904 to Herbert Brownell, Sr. and May Miller Brownell.[2] After moving to Lincoln in 1910, he attended public schools there and enrolled in the University of Nebraska in 1920. During college, Brownell edited the student newspaper, was the president of the Delta Upsilon fraternity, and taught journalism.[2] He obtained a bachelor's degree from the university in 1924.

After deciding to pursue a career in law rather than journalism, Brownell attended Yale University and obtained an LL.B. in 1927.[2] For the following two years, he employed at a law firm in New York City.

Political career

In 1931, Brownell ran for the New York State Assembly from the tenth district, touting himself as a candidate for reform.[2] His campaign manager was Thomas E. Dewey, who would unsuccessfully run for president in 1944 and 1948. Although he lost the general election, he ran again the following year and emerged victorious.[2]

During time in the state legislature, Brownell introduced legislation to bolster child labor laws, combat gangs and racketeering, and to revise the NYC charter.[2] After choosing to retire from the general assembly in 1937, he was appointed to the State Republican Party Committee. During the 1942 New York gubernatorial election, he served as the campaign manger for Dewey,[2] who won the race by sixteen percentage points.[3] During the 1944 presidential election, Brownell once again served on Dewey's campaign, this time as the chief strategist.[2]

Amidst the campaign in 1944, Brownell was picked to be the chair of the RNC and maintained the position for two years.[2] During the period, he improved the organization of the GOP leadership. In 1948, Brownell served on the campaign of Dewey in his second presidential bid, this time against Harry S. Truman.[2]

During the 1952 presidential election, Brownell played a role in encouraging Dwight David Eisenhower to run and made a successful maneuver to prevent Eisenhower's isolationist, more conservative primary opponent Robert A. Taft from obtaining enough delegates, all but securing the GOP nomination of Ike. After the General of the Army easily defeated Adlai Stevenson in a landslide, Brownell was several years later appointed by the president to become the U.S. Attorney General.

Eisenhower Administration

Then-Attorney General James McGranery (left) and Brownell (right) in 1952.

Brownell was successful in his efforts for President Eisenhower to appoint pro-civil rights judges into federal judicial positions.[4][5] He proved crucial in the appointment of Earl Warren to the United States Supreme Court,[6] led the DOJ in filing a brief to the Court in Brown v. Board of Education, and later convinced Eisenhower to send federal troops to enforce integration in Arkansas during the Little Rock crisis.[5][7][8]

Brownell wrote the original version of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and the legislation was submitted to Congress by Eisenhower.[7] After passing the House with most of the opposition from Democrats,[9] the bill was weakened in the Senate under the direction of then-Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson,[10] who masterminded the passage of the Anderson-Aiken amendment which removed Title III[11] and in addition pushed through the O'Mahoney jury trial amendment to compromise with segregationists.[12] In order to prevent the Democrats on the national level as being viewed as civil rights obstructionists, Johnson ensured that rather than the bill going down in a filibuster by the Southern Democrats, the legislation be weakened to prevent progress if enacted. The Senate passed on July 24th an amendment which removed authority for the attorney general to intervene in civil rights cases,[2][13] and on August 2nd the jury trial amendment.[14] Only then was the Act passed by the Senate,[15] which Eisenhower still signed into law.

An outspoken opponent of communist sedition, Brownell recommended to Eisenhower in 1953 that calls to give clemency to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg be rejected.[4] The Rosenbergs were ultimately executed for conspiring to hand U.S. nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union.

Brownell and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a Wisconsin Republican senator who exposed communist infiltration of the United States State Department and the U.S. Army, alleged that President Harry Truman had known that Treasury Undersecretary Harry Dexter White was a Soviet spy when Truman appointed him as the first head of the International Monetary Fund.[16] Although this has now been refuted by declassified documents through the Freedom of Information Act which attest Truman and the White House had not known of the existence of the Army Signals Intelligence (forerunner of the NSA) Venona project which identified Soviet spies in government,[17] FBI director J. Edgar Hoover did warn Truman that White was under suspicion, but Truman dismissed the allegations. The 1997 bipartisan Moynihan Commission on Government Secrecy, chaired by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, states in its findings:[18]

The complicity of Alger Hiss of the State Department seems settled. As does that of Harry Dexter White of the Treasury Department.

Brownell also worked secretly to undermine some of the "excesses" of McCarthy.[2]

He resigned from the Eisenhower Administration on October 23, 1957, which was accepted in a letter by Eisenhower.[19]

See also

  • Tom Clark, Attorney General under Truman and Supreme Court Justice


  1. Order of the Coif. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved August 5, 2021.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Brownell, Herbert, Jr.. Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  3. NY Governor Race - Nov 03, 1942. Our Campaigns. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 New York Times News Service (May 4, 1996). HERBERT BROWNELL JR., IKE'S ATTORNEY GENERAL. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Barnes, Bart (May 3, 1996). HERBERT BROWNELL DIES AT 92. The Washington Post. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  6. Historian highlights Nebraskans' contributions. College of Journalism and Mass Communications Archive. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Zak, Michael (February 20, 2007). Herbert Brownell, GOP civil rights hero. American Thinker. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  8. Herbert Brownell Jr.. American Law and Legal Information. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  9. HR 6127. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1957.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  10. The Civil Rights Act of 1957. Us House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  11. Caro, Robert A. (2003). Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (pp. 910–43). Retrieved September 24, 2021
  12. DiEugenio, James (October 7, 2018). The Kennedys and Civil Rights: How the MSM Continues to Distort History, Part 2. Kennedys and King. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  15. HR. 6127. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1957.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  16. Time Magazine, The White Case Record, Nov. 30, 1953. Time Magazine via archive.is. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  17. Chairman's Forward, Moynihan Commission on Government Secrecy (1997). Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  18. Moynihan Commission on Government Secrecy, Appendix A, 7. The Cold War (1997). Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  19. Letter Accepting Resignation of Herbert Brownell, Jr., as the Attorney General.. The American Presidency Project. Retrieved July 6, 2021.

External links

  • Profile at The United States Department of Justice
  • Profile at Find a Grave
  • Profile at Social Networks and Archival Context
  • Papers at Eisenhower Presidential Library