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Herbert Pell
Herbert C. Pell.jpg
United States Ambassador to Hungary
In office
February 11, 1941 – November 30, 1942
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byJohn Flournoy Montgomery
Succeeded byNone
United States Ambassador to Portugal
In office
May 27, 1937 – February 11, 1941
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byRobert Granville Caldwell
Succeeded byBert Fish
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 17th district
In office
March 4, 1919 – March 3, 1921
Preceded byJohn F. Carew
Succeeded byOgden L. Mills
Personal details
Herbert Claiborne Pell, Jr.

(1884-02-16)February 16, 1884
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 17, 1961(1961-07-17) (aged 77)
Munich, Bavaria, West Germany
Political partyDemocratic
Matilda Bigelow
(m. 1915; div. 1927)
Olive Bigelow Tilton
(m. 1927)
ChildrenClaiborne Pell
EducationPomfret School
Alma materHarvard University
Columbia University
New York University

Herbert Claiborne Pell Jr. (February 16, 1884 – July 17, 1961) was a United States Representative from New York, U.S. Minister to Portugal, U.S. Minister to Hungary, and a creator and member of the United Nations War Crimes Commission.

A native of New York City and a member of the prominent and wealthy Lorillard and Claiborne families, Pell was educated at Connecticut's Pomfret School and attended Harvard University, Columbia University, and New York University. Originally active in politics as a Progressive, he later became a Democrat. In 1918, Pell was elected to Congress, and he served from 1919 to 1921. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1920. Pell continued to remain active in politics, and was chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee from 1921 to 1926 and a delegate to the 1924 Democratic National Convention. He served as vice chairman of the Democratic National Campaign Committee for the 1936 elections.

In 1937, Pell was appointed as Minister to Portugal, where he served from May 27, 1937 until February 11, 1941, when he was appointed Minister to Hungary. In December 1941, Pell received Hungary's declaration of war against the United States, closed the embassy and returned to the United States. He formally resigned in November 1942. From 1942 to 1945, Pell was the United States representative on the United Nations War Crimes Commission. Pell was recognized as an internationalist on foreign policy and a progressive despite coming from the wealthy and conservative class, which tended to be isolationist. He was the leading American seeking to build awareness of the plight of European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s and prevent the Holocaust, and was able to aid in holding the perpetrators responsible as the principal U.S. sponsor of and U.S. representative of the War Crimes Commission.

Pell died in Munich, West Germany on July 17, 1961. His remains were cremated and scattered in the Atlantic Ocean at Beavertail in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Early life

Pell was born in New York City on February 16, 1884. He was the elder son of two children born to Katherine Lorillard (née Kernochan) Pell (1858–1917) and Herbert Claiborne Pell (1853–1926). His younger brother was Clarence Cecil Pell (1885–1964). He was a great-grandson of U.S. Representative John Francis Hamtramck Claiborne, and great-great-grandnephew of William Charles Cole Claiborne and Nathaniel Herbert Claiborne.[1] Through his mother and maternal grandparents, James Powell Kernochan and Catherine (née Lorillard) Kernochan, the daughter of Pierre Lorillard III, he inherited a share of the Lorillard Tobacco fortune. He was also a direct descendant of Wampage I, a Siwanoy chieftain, as reflected in a Congressional Record entry relating to his son Claiborne Pell.[2]

Pell was educated at the Pomfret School, in Connecticut. He attended Harvard University, Columbia University, and New York University, but did not complete a degree.[3]


Pell's political career began as a member of the Progressive committee of Orange County, New York (1912 to 1914). He was elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-sixth Congress (March 4, 1919 – March 3, 1921) and was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1920 to the Sixty-seventh Congress.[4] He was chairman of the Democratic State committee from 1921 to 1926 and a delegate to the 1924 Democratic National Convention. Pell was an occasional lecturer at Columbia University, Harvard University, and other colleges and universities. He also served on the advisory committee of Yenching University, later merged with Peking University.

In 1936 was vice chairman of the Democratic National Campaign Committee.[1] Pell was appointed as Minister to Portugal, where he served from May 27, 1937 until February 11, 1941, when he was appointed Minister to Hungary. He was serving in Budapest on December 13, 1941 when he received the Hungarian declaration of war against the United States. He closed the legation in Budapest, returned to the U.S. on January 16, 1942 and submitted his resignation on November 30, 1942. He was United States representative on the United Nations War Crimes Commission from August 1943 to January 1945.[1]

Personal life

In November 1915, he married Matilda Bigelow (1895-1972),[5] daughter of Nelson Pendleton Bigelow.[6] Before their divorce in March 1927, they were the parents of:[7]

In June 1927, Matilda married Hugo W. Koehler (1886-1941), a commander in the United States Navy who served as a naval and State Department special agent in Russia during its civil war in 1920.[9][10] Two weeks later in Paris,[11] Pell married Olive Bigelow Pell (1886-1980),[12] the portraitist.[13][14] Olive Bigelow was the daughter of Poultney Bigelow (1855-1954) and granddaughter of John Bigelow (1817–1911), the U.S. Ambassador to France under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.[11]

Pell died on July 17, 1961 in Munich, West Germany at the age of 77, while touring Europe with his grandson, Herbert Pell III.[15] His funeral was held at Trinity Church in Newport, Rhode Island where there is a memorial plaque in his honor. His ashes were committed to the ocean off Beavertail in Jamestown, Rhode Island.[1]


Pell was the great-grandfather of Herbert Claiborne Pell IV (b. 1981), a candidate for Governor of Rhode Island, who married two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan (b. 1980).[16][17]

Honors and commemorations

The Herbert Pell Cup in yachting is named for Pell.


  1. ^ a b c d "Pell, Herbert Claiborne, Jr. - Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  2. ^ 1966 Congressional Record, Vol. 112, Page S606 (1966-01-19)
  3. ^ Baker, Leonard (1972). Brahmin In Revolt: A Biography of Herbert C. Pell. New York, NY: Doubleday. p. 34.
  4. ^ "Democrats Elect Pell as Chairman; New Head of State Committee Receives Pledge of Tammany's Support "to the Limit." Lunn Define State Issues. In Nominating Ex-Congressman He Urges Fight for Return of Home Rule and Direct Nominations". The New York Times. July 1, 1921. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  5. ^ Times, Special To The New York (August 30, 1915). "Society at Newport; Large Supper and Dance at the Golf Club Is Planned". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  6. ^ Seidenbero, Robert (July 28, 1972). "Senator Pell's Mother Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  7. ^ Times, Copyright, 1927, By The New York Times Company special Cable To The New York (February 27, 1927). "Mrs. Herbert Pell Asks Paris Divorce; Charges Desertion by Former Representative and Democratic State Chairman. Gets Custody of Child. Couple Were Married Here in November, 1915, by Bishop Darlington -- Mr. Pell Abroad". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  8. ^ Honan, William H. (January 1, 2009). "Claiborne Pell, Patrician Senator Behind College Grant Program, Dies at 90". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  9. ^ "Comdr. H.W. Koehler: Served in Warsaw and Canal Zone. 16 Years in Navy". The New York Times. June 19, 1941. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  10. ^ "Mrs. Matilda B. Pell Weds Naval Officer; Marriage to Commander Hugo W. Koehler Is Surprise - She Won divorce in March". The New York Times. June 3, 1927. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Mrs. Bigelow Tilton Weds herbert C. Pell; Ceremony in Paris on Saturday -- Bride an Artist, Granddaughter of Diplomat". The New York Times. June 20, 1927. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  12. ^ "Olive Pell, 94, a Painter; Works Helped Red Cross". The New York Times. December 10, 1980. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  13. ^ Pogatchnik, Shawn; Parachini, Allan (December 17, 1989). "A Look at Congress' Leading Art Advocates". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, CA.
  14. ^ "A Certain Amount of Tactful Undermining: Herbert C. Pell and Hungary in 1941". The Hungarian Quarterly, VOLUME LII, No. 202-203, Summer-Autumn 2011.
  15. ^ "Herbert C. Pell, Diplomat, Dead; Father of Senator Served in Portugal and Hungary". The New York Times. July 19, 1961. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  16. ^ Sullivan, Sean. "Michelle Kwan's husband Clay Pell running for governor of Rhode Island". Retrieved February 23, 2014.
  17. ^ "Clay Pell files for divorce from Michelle Kwan". Providence Journal. March 29, 2017. Retrieved March 29, 2017.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 17th congressional district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
William W. Farley
New York State Democratic Committee Chairman
July 1921 – January 1926
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and 
Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal

Succeeded by
Preceded by U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and 
Minister Plenipotentiary to Hungary

Succeeded by
None – Legation closed
December 1941
This page was last edited on 28 November 2021, at 17:40
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