Appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt
For a world's record 11 years, 8 months, and 26 days (March 4, 1933-November 30, 1944), Cordell Hull of Tennessee held the office of secretary of state. The image Hull presented to the public was that of a kindly southern gentleman and judge who preached the virtues of the good neighbor and Wilsonian internationalism. Behind his back he was often ridiculed for his simple-minded moralizing, for his speech impediment and profanity-filled outbursts, and because President Franklin D. Roosevelt often left Hull uninformed as he worked through his friends and conducted summit conferences alone. But in retrospect, it is Hull's statesmanlike vision rather than his shortcomings that stand out: his efforts to promote better relations with Latin America and the Soviet Union, his faith in international cooperation, and his awareness that America was foolish to confront Japan at a time when the nation was militarily weak. Had Hull been able to observe the international economic expansion in the decades after his death in 1955, he likely would have regarded that as the ultimate vindication of his faith that free trade was the route to a world of peace, prosperity, and stability.
Despite his aristocratic name, Cordell Hull was the son of a Tennessee mountain farmer who, in enterprising fashion, supported his wife and five sons by selling timber and by operating a country store and post office from which he sold goods on credit. His father named the future secretary of state, who was born on October 2, 1871, after a family friend, county judge John Cordell. As a young man Hull became skilled at all aspects of farming, and he assisted his father in the hazardous business of floating log rafts down the Cumberland River to Nashville—a virtual metropolis in the eyes of the young man from the country. For three and a half months each winter, his father employed a tutor to instruct his sons in the basics of English and history. When Hull was 15, his father sent him to Montvale Institute at Celina, Tennessee, 12 miles from the family farm. Hull recalled that his homemade clothes and socks were a source of ridicule from some of the more well-to-do students. He credited Joe S. McMillan, the school's teacher, with requiring the stu-