Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Kenneth C. Royall (1947–1947): Secretary of War

Kenneth Claiborne Royall was born on July 24, 1884, in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Royall graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1914 and received a law degree from Harvard in 1917. He fought in World War I and opened a law practice in North Carolina following his return from Europe. He also served, briefly in the North Carolina state senate (1927).

During World War II, Royall held several posts supporting the U.S. Army and was appointed to the rank of brigadier general. For part of 1945, Royall was special assistant to Secretary of War Henry Stimson; in November of that year, President Harry S. Truman appointed Royall undersecretary of war.

Royall has the distinction of being the nation's last secretary of war, a post he held from July through September 1947 -- a time when the U.S. armed forces were going through its reorganization in accordance with the National Security Act of 1947.

Following the creation of the Department of Defense that same year, Royall became secretary of the Army, the last one to hold a cabinet-level position. He resigned in 1949 and resumed his law practice. He died in Durham, North Carolina, on May 25, 1971.