J. William Fulbright

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J. William Fulbright

James William Fulbright (born April 9, 1905 in Sumner , Chariton County , Missouri , †  February 9, 1995 in Washington, DC ) was an American politician of the Democratic Party . Fulbright represented the state of Arkansas in both houses of Congress .


After studying political science at the University of Arkansas , where he graduated in 1925, Fulbright was a Rhodes scholarship to the Pembroke College of Oxford University in England , where he in 1928 his master's degree made. He received his PhD from George Washington University Law School in 1934 and was admitted to the bar that same year. First he worked in the US Department of Justice, between 1936 and 1939 he also lectured at the University of Arkansas, of which he was elected President in 1939. At that time he was the youngest university president in his country.


Fulbright (left) in the Oval Office speaking to President Johnson , 1968

In 1942, Fulbright was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Democratic Party MP . From 1944 to 1974 he was then a member of the US Senate for Arkansas . There he was a member and from 1959 to 1974 chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations . In 1948 he was President of the American Committee for a United Europe .

As a Senator from Arkansas, Fulbright represented positions against the majority of the Senate. In 1954 he was the only Senator to vote against the establishment of the McCarthy Committee and in 1961/62 he harbored concerns about the invasion of Cuba planned by President John F. Kennedy . He later regretted agreeing to an escalation of the Vietnam War . The future US President Bill Clinton , also a Rhodes scholar , worked during his student days with the then Senator Fulbright.

On July 30, 1961, two weeks before the Berlin Wall was erected, Fulbright said in a television interview: “I don't understand why the East Germans haven't closed their border long ago; I believe they have every right to do so. ”It is believed that President Kennedy asked Fulbright to use this statement to signal to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that the United States regards the building of the wall as an acceptable way of solving the Berlin crisis would.

Fulbright often argued that the United States often interfered too much in the internal affairs of other states. Throughout his political career, Fulbright was a supporter of international law and the United Nations (UN). On the flip side, as an MP from the southern United States , Fulbright has long been a supporter of racial segregation and voted against both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act , which gave black people in the United States full voting rights. He signed the Southern Manifesto .

Fulbright program

Internationally today, Fulbright is best known for the Fulbright program of the Fulbright Commission , which was named after him during his lifetime and which, at his suggestion in 1944, was decided on August 1, 1946 with the aim of attracting students, teachers and professors Facilitating exchanges between their home country and the United States and vice versa, thus promoting understanding between peoples and cultures. He was referring to his experience in Oxford. A part of the proceeds from the sale of surplus American war goods that were not returned to the States (in Germany the so-called Stegwaren ) were supposed to serve as financing . The first exchange began in the academic year 1948/49 with China, then with other allied countries. Austria followed in 1951/52, the Federal Republic of Germany in 1953/54.


In 1950 Fulbright was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1953 to the American Philosophical Society . On May 5, 1993, he received the Medal of Freedom , the highest civilian honor in the United States. He was also awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (Commander with a star).

The J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding , endowed with US $ 50,000 , has been awarded since 1993. The first recipient was Nelson Mandela . Angela Merkel received the award in 2019 .


Web links

Commons : J. William Fulbright  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Fulbright as a Pembroke alumnus .
  2. Senator Fulbright's "greatest presumable accident" . In: Berliner Morgenpost , July 30, 2011. Cf. Stefan Kornelius: US President Kennedy and the building of the wall. I'm not a Berliner . In: Sueddeutsche.de , August 13, 2011, accessed December 25, 2012.
  3. ^ Member History: J. William Fulbright. American Philosophical Society, accessed August 15, 2018 .
  4. ^ Website of the Fulbright Association (English), accessed on March 23, 2016.
  5. Fulbright Prize awarded against Trump by Cerstin Gammelin, Süddeutsche Zeitung January 28, 2019.
  6. Merkel with an appeal against nationalism - “Must stand against us” , Die Welt January 28, 2019.