US Senator, Presidential Cabinet Secretary, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient. After graduating from Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, where his father was a professor of mathematics, he taught for a year at the Rome, New York, Free Academy. He decided to become a lawyer and attended the New York University School of Law, graduating in 1867. He went into private practice as a corporate lawyer and was part of the junior defense counsel during the corruption trial of William "Boss" Tweed in 1873. He was appointed US Attorney for the Southern District of New York by President Chester A. Arthur. From 1899 to 1904 he served as the US Secretary of War under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. During that time he was responsible for enlarging the US Military Academy at West Point and establishing the US Army War College in 1901 at Fort McNair, Washington DC (now located at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania). He also changed procedures for military promotions, devised the principle of rotating military officers from staff to line, and organized schools for the special branches of the service. He was also concerned about the new territories the US acquired after the Spanish-American War and developed procedures to turn Cuba over to the Cubans, wrote the charter of government for the Philippines, and eliminated tariffs on goods imported to the US from Puerto Rico. He left the Cabinet in 1904 and returned to private practice. In 1905, President Roosevelt named him to be the US Secretary of State after the death of John Hay. During his tenure, he placed the consular service under the civil service, maintained the Open Door Policy in the Far East, persuaded the Latin American governments to participate in the Hague Peace Conference, worked with Japan in emigration to the US as well as dealings with China and established the Root-Takahira Agreement, and engaged with Great Britain in resolving the border disputes between the US (Alaska) and Canada and also in the North Atlantic fisheries. In January 1909, he was elected a US Senator from New York, serving from March 1909 to March 1915, where he was an active member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912 as a result of his efforts to bring nations together, to work out their differences through arbitration and cooperation. He opposed President Woodrow Wilson's policy of neutrality at the beginning of World War I and actively promoted the Preparedness Movement to ready the US for entry into the war. After leaving the Senate in 1915, he was asked to seek the Republican presidential nomination in June 1916, but declined because he felt that he was too old to bear the burden of the Presidency. In June 1917, he was sent to Russia by President Wilson as the leader of the so-called "Root Commission," to help arrange American cooperation with their new revolutionary government, which was unsuccessful. He supported the establishment of the League of Nations after the end of World War I. In 1922, President Warren G. Harding appointed him as a delegate to the Washington Naval Conference (International Conference on the Limitation of Armaments). He also worked with Andrew Carnegie in programs for international peace and the advancement of science, and was the first president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He helped to found the American Society of International Law in 1906, serving as its president from 1907 to 1924. He helped to establish the American Law Institute in 1923 and to create the Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands. In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown (Belgium) and the Grand Commander of the Order of George I (Greece). He was the last surviving member of the McKinley Cabinet before his death in 1937. His literary works include "Citizen's Part in Government" (1911), "Experiments in Government and the Essentials of the Constitution" (1913), "Addresses on International Subjects" (1916), "Military and Colonial Policy of the United States" (1916), "Miscellaneous Addresses" (1917), and "Men and Policies: Addresses by Elihu Root" (1925).
Bio by: William Bjornstad