Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

BROWNELL, HERBERT, JR. (1904-1996)

Herbert Brownell Jr., attorney general under President Dwight Eisenhower from 1953–57, was born on February 20, 1904, in Peru, Nebraska. Brownell grew up in southeastern Nebraska and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska in 1924. He left the Great Plains to attend law school at Yale University. Graduating in 1927, he was admitted to the bar in 1928 and immediately began practicing law in New York City, eventually entering the prestigious law firm of Lord, Day and Lord. Brownell also became involved in New York politics early in his career. At the age of twenty-eight he was elected to the New York assembly, representing Manhattan from 1933 to 1937. From 1938 to 1948 he managed Thomas Dewey's gubernatorial and presidential campaigns, and he briefly served as the chairman of the Republican National Committee (1944–45). During the 1952 presidential campaign, Brownell worked closely with Eisenhower, advising him on convention strategy and the selection of Richard Nixon as vice president. As a reward, President-elect Eisenhower nominated Brownell attorney general.

Brownell's work in the Justice Department revolved around two themes: anti-Communism and civil rights. As a staunch anti-Communist, Brownell resurrected spy cases and accused the Truman administration of being soft on Communism. He also protested a stay of execution for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, targeted leftwing organizations, attacked labor unions, and proposed to Congress an array of anti- Communist legislation.

At the same time, however, Brownell, more than any other Eisenhower cabinet member, worked to further civil rights. It was Brownell's recommendation, for example, that led to the appointment of Earl Warren to the Supreme Court. Brownell also supported the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka. Brownell worked hard to push the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through Congress, which established a Civil Rights Commission and created the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department. One of his most important accomplishments was advising Eisenhower to intervene and forcefully integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Brownell resigned as attorney general in October 1957 and returned to private practice in New York City. He and his wife, Doris Mc- Carter, whom he had married on June 16, 1934, in New York City, had four children. Herbert Brownell died on May 1, 1996.

See also POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT: Eisenhower, Dwight D.

Mark R. Ellis University of Nebraska at Kearney

Brownell, Herbert, Jr., with John P. Burke. Advising Ike: The Memoirs of Attorney-General Herbert Brownell. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993.

U.S. Department of Justice. The Attorney Generals of the United States, 1789-1985. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1985.

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