Fulbright, James William

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 13

James William Fulbright served as a U.S. senator from Arkansas from 1945 to 1974. Fulbright played an important role in shaping U.S. foreign policy as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His opposition to the VIETNAM WAR and to unbridled PRESIDENTIAL POWER in foreign affairs contributed to major shifts in the conduct of U.S. foreign relations.

Fulbright was born in Sumner, Missouri, on April 9, 1905, the son of a prosperous Arkansas businessman. Fulbright was the youngest of four children born to Jay and Roberta Waugh Fulbright. His father was a banker, farmer, and businessman. His mother wrote a column for the family-owned Fayetteville newspaper. He entered the University of Arkansas at the age of 16, and graduated in 1925. From 1925 to 1928, Fulbright attended Oxford University, in England, as a Rhodes Scholar. This educational experience deepened his intellectual interests and provided a strong background for public life. He graduated from George Washington University Law School in 1934, and then taught at that school for two years. In 1936, he accepted a teaching position at the University of Arkansas. In 1939, he was appointed president of the University of Arkansas. At age 34, he was the youngest college president in the United States. His tenure was short, however, as a new governor dismissed him in 1941.

Fulbright then turned his focus to politics. As a Democrat he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1942. In 1945, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. His previous time as a Rhodes Scholar led him to sponsor the Fulbright Act of 1946, 22 U.S.C.A. § 245 et seq., which awards scholarships to U.S. citizens for study and research abroad and to citizens from other nations for study in the United States. The establishment of the Fulbright Scholarship exchange program has proved to be an enduring legacy.

The Compromise of 1850 included the Fugitive Slave Act, which mandated that citizens assist in the capture of runaway slaves. Pictured here is a handbill warning African Americans in Boston to avoid law enforcement agents empowered to enforce the act.


Fulbright, although personally a moderate on matters of race, believed in the 1950s that he needed to move to the right on race issues to protect his political future in Arkansas. This led him to sign the Southern Manifesto, a 1956 document signed by southern senators and...

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