Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Herbert Brownell, Jr. (1953–1957): Attorney General

Herbert Brownell Jr. was attorney general under President Eisenhower from January 21, 1953, to October 23, 1957. Brownell recieved his B.A. from the University of Nebraska in 1924 and earned a law degree from Yale in 1927. He was admitted to the New York bar in 1928. Brownell was an associate at the law firm of Root, Clark, Buckner and Ballantine from 1927 until 1929. At that point, he joined the more prestigious firm of Lord, Day and Lord.

While he was an unsuccessful candidate for the New York State Assembly in 1931, Brownell prevailed as a rare Republican victor in 1932 and won successive elections until 1937. He managed Thomas E. Dewey's gubernatorial (1938 and 1942) and presidential (1944 and 1948) campaigns. From 1944 to 1946, Brownell was the national chairman of the Republican Party.

After playing an important part in securing delegates for Eisenhower's nomination in the 1952 national convention and then during the presidential campaign, Brownell became attorney general. He often advised Eisenhower on civil rights matters. He also helped to expedite the electrocution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were sentenced to death for passing secret files about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union.

He also enshrined the practice of allowing the American Bar Association to vet judicial appointments. Finally, Brownell was instrumental in advising Eisenhower to send federal troops to enforce the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. After resigning in 1957, he rejoined his old law firm as a senior partner until 1977 and then until 1989 as counsel. He died in 1996.