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James William Fulbright (April 9, 1905 February 9, 1995) was a United States Senator representing Arkansasmarker from 1945 to 1975.

Fulbright was a Southern Democrat and a staunch multilateralist, supported the creation of the United Nations and opposed the House Un-American Activities Committee. He is remembered for his efforts to establish an international exchange program, which thereafter bore his name, the Fulbright Fellowship. Fulbright was the longest serving chairman in the history of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Early years

Born in Sumnermarker, Missourimarker, he earned a political science degree from the University of Arkansasmarker in 1925, where he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He was elected president of the student body and a star 4-year player for the Razorback football team from 1921-24.

Fulbright later studied at Oxford Universitymarker, where he was a Rhodes Scholar at Pembroke Collegemarker graduating in 1928. He received his law degree from George Washington University Law School in 1934, and was admitted to the bar in Washington, D.C.marker and became an attorney in the Antitrust Division of the U.S.marker Department of Justicemarker.

Fulbright was a lecturer in law at the University of Arkansasmarker from 1936 until 1939. He was appointed president of the school in 1939, making him the youngest university president in the country. He held this post until 1941. The School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansasmarker is named in his honor.

Fulbright's sister, Roberta, married Gilbert C. Swanson, the head of the Swanson frozen-foods conglomerate, and was the maternal grandmother of media figure Tucker Carlson.

Congressional career

[[Image:Industrial-Chicken-Coop.JPG|thumb|right|260px|Senator Fulbright and the Chicken Tax

U.S. intensive chicken farming led to the 1961-1964 Chicken War with Europe.

With imports of inexpensive chicken from the U.S., chicken prices fell quickly and sharply across Europe, radically affecting European chicken consumption. U.S. chicken overtook nearly half of the imported European chicken market. Coming on the heels of a "crisis in trade relations between the U.S. and the Common Market," Europe moved ahead with tariffs.

Senator Fulbright, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Democratic Senator from Arkansas — a chief poultry-producing state — interrupted a NATOmarker debate on nuclear armament to protest trade sanctions on U.S. chicken, going so far as to threaten cutting US troops in NATO.

The U.S. subsequently enacted a 25% tariff on imported light trucks, known as the Chicken tax — that remains in effect as of 2009.]]

House of Representatives

Fulbright was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1942, where he served one term. During this period, he became a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The House adopted the Fulbright Resolution which supported international peace-keeping initiatives and encouraged the United States to participate in what became the United Nations in September 1942. This brought Fulbright to national attention. He was elected to the Senate in 1944, where he served five six-year terms.

He promoted the passage of legislation establishing the Fulbright Program in 1946, a program of educational grants (Fulbright Fellowships and Fulbright Scholarships), sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of Statemarker, governments in other countries, and the private sector. The program was established to increase mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. It is considered one of the most prestigious award programs and it operates in 144 countries.


Fulbright became a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1949, and served as chairman from 1959 to 1974 he was the longest-serving chair in that committee's history.

He was the only senator to vote against an appropriation for the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1954, which was chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy . McCarthy in turn, repeatedly called him "Senator Halfbright."

Fulbright signed The Southern Manifesto opposing the Supreme Court's historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. He subsequently joined with the Dixiecrats in filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as voting against the 1965 Voting Rights Act. However, during the Nixon administration Fulbright voted for a civil rights bill and led the charge against confirming Nixon's conservative Supreme Court nominees Clement Haynsworth and Harold Carswell [42593].

Fulbright raised serious objections to President John F. Kennedy about the impending Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961, and also to President Lyndon B. Johnson on the 1965 Dominican Civil War in Santo Domingo[42594]. On 30 July, 1961, two weeks before the erection of the Berlin Wallmarker, Fulbright said in a television interview, "I don't understand why the East Germans don't just close their border, because I think they have the right to close it."  [42595]. It has been suggested that President Kennedy asked Fulbright to make this statement as a way of signaling to Sovietmarker leader Nikita Khrushchev that the building of a wall would be viewed by the United States as an acceptable way of defusing the Berlin Crisis.

Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1963, Fulbright claimed five million tax-deductible dollars from philanthropic Americans was sent to Israel and then recycled back to the U.S. for distribution to organizations seeking to influence public opinion in favor of Israel. This statement led to friction with organized pro-Israeli groups in the U.S.

Perhaps his most notable case of dissent was his public condemnation of foreign and domestic policies, in particular, his concern that right-wing radicalism, as espoused by the John Birch Society and wealthy oil-man H.L. Hunt, had infected the United States military. He was, in turn, denounced by conservative Senators J. Strom Thurmond and Barry M. Goldwater. Goldwater and Texas Senator John Tower announced that they were going to Arkansas to campaign against Fulbright, but Arkansas voters reelected him.

Despite serving in the Senate for 30 years, Fulbright remained Arkansas' junior senator throughout his tenure, serving alongside senior senator John L. McClellan. He is the longest-serving senator in history to never become his state's senior senator.

Vietnam War and U.S. foreign policy

On August 7, 1964, a unanimous House of Representatives and all but two members of the Senate voted to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which led to a dramatic escalation of the Vietnam War. Fulbright, who not only voted for, but sponsored, the resolution, would later write:

Many Senators who accepted the Gulf of Tonkin resolution without question might well not have done so had they foreseen that it would subsequently be interpreted as a sweeping Congressional endorsement for the conduct of a large-scale war in Asia.

As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Fulbright held several series of hearings on the Vietnam War. Many of the earlier hearings, in 1966, were televised to the nation in their entirety (a rarity in the pre-C-Span era); the 1971 hearings included the notable testimony of Vietnam veteran and future Senator and Senate Foreign Relations Chair John Kerry.

In 1966, Fulbright published The Arrogance of Power, in which he attacked the justification of the Vietnam War, Congress's failure to set limits on it, and the impulses which gave rise to it. Fulbright's scathing critique undermined the elite consensus that U.S. military intervention in Indochina was necessitated by Cold War geopolitics. Some critics of U.S. foreign policy argue that U.S. policy has changed little since Fulbright wrote his book, and find his words apply today.

In his book, Fulbright offered an analysis of American foreign policy:

Throughout our history two strands have coexisted uneasily; a dominant strand of democratic humanism and a lesser but durable strand of intolerant Puritanism.
There has been a tendency through the years for reason and moderation to prevail as long as things are going tolerably well or as long as our problems seem clear and finite and manageable.
But... when some event or leader of opinion has aroused the people to a state of high emotion, our puritan spirit has tended to break through, leading us to look at the world through the distorting prism of a harsh and angry moralism.

Fulbright also related his opposition to any American tendencies to intervene in the affairs of other nations:

Power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is particularly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image.
Power confuses itself with virtue and tends also to take itself for omnipotence.
Once imbued with the idea of a mission, a great nation easily assumes that it has the means as well as the duty to do God's work.

He was also a strong believer in international law:

Law is the essential foundation of stability and order both within societies and in international relations.
As a conservative power, the United States has a vital interest in upholding and expanding the reign of law in international relations.
Insofar as international law is observed, it provides us with stability and order and with a means of predicting the behavior of those with whom we have reciprocal legal obligations.
When we violate the law ourselves, whatever short-term advantage may be gained, we are obviously encouraging others to violate the law; we thus encourage disorder and instability and thereby do incalculable damage to our own long-term interests.

Final election and legacy

Fulbright retired from the Senate in 1974, after being defeated in the Democratic primary by then-Governor Dale Bumpers. As the sections above have documented, his early condemnation of the Vietnamese war, and his anti-isolationist programs, had long made him a target of his party's far right wing.

At the time that he left the Senate, Fulbright had spent his entire 30 years in the Senate as the Junior senator from Arkansas, behind John Little McClellan who entered the Senate two years before him. After his retirement, Fulbright practiced law in the Washington, DC office of Hogan & Hartson.

On May 5, 1993, he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President William Clinton.

Fulbright died of a stroke in 1995 at the age of 89 in Washington, D.C. A year later, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary dinner of the Fulbright Program held June 5, 1996 at the White House, President Bill Clinton said, "Hillary and I have looked forward for sometime to celebrating this 50th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, to honor the dream and legacy of a great American, a citizen of the world, a native of my home state and my mentor and friend, Senator Fulbright." [42596]

Fulbright's ashes were interred at the Fulbright Family plot in Evergreen Cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansasmarker.

In 1996, George Washington Universitymarker renamed a residence hall in his honor. The J. William Fulbright Hall resides at the corner of 23rd and H Streets, NW.

On October 21, 2002, in a speech at the dedication of the Fulbright Sculpture at the University of Arkansas, Bill Clinton said,
"I admired him. I liked him. On the occasions when we disagreed, I loved arguing with him. I never loved getting in an argument with anybody as much in my entire life as I loved fighting with Bill Fulbright".

Fulbright Program

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State.

Approximately 279,500 "Fulbrighters," 105,400 from the United States and 174,100 from other countries, have participated in the Program since its inception over sixty years ago. The Fulbright Program awards approximately 6,000 new grants annually.

Currently, the Fulbright Program operates in over 150 countries worldwide.



  3. David Harris, "Swanson Saga: End of a Dream", The New York Times, 9 September 1979
  4. Verdict on Santo Domingo
  5. Johnson, Haynes and Gwertzmann, Bernard (1968). Fulbright: The Dissenter. Doubleday.

Further reading

  • Fulbright, J. William (1966). The Arrogance of Power, New York: Random House. ISBN 0-8129-9262-8
  • Fulbright, J. William (1971). The Pentagon Propaganda Machine, New York: Vintage Books
  • Fulbright, J. William (1985). Advice and Dissent, Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.
  • Clinton, Bill (2005). My Life. Vintage. ISBN 1-4000-3003-X.
  • Finley, Keith M. Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight Against Civil Rights, 1938-1965 (Baton Rouge, LSU Press, 2008).
  • Johnson, Haynes and Gwertzmann, Bernard (1968). Fulbright: The Dissenter. Doubleday.
  • Woods, Randall B. (1995) "Fulbright: A Biography," Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-48262-3

External links

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