Royall, Kenneth C. (Kenneth Claiborne), 1894-1971

Alternative names
Birth 1894-07-24
Death 1971-05-25

Biographical notes:

Government executive, lawyer.

From the description of Reminiscences of Kenneth Claiborne Royall : oral history, 1963. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 309726361

Kenneth Royall was born in Goldsboro, N.C., in 1894. He served as the last U.S. secretary of war in 1947 and as the first secretary of the Army, 1947-1949. He also had an active law career in Goldsboro and Raleigh, N.C., and in New York.

From the description of Kenneth C. Royall papers, 1940-1969. (Oceanside Free Library). WorldCat record id: 30485705

Kenneth Claiborne Royall was born in Goldsboro, N.C., on 24 July 1894, the son of George Claiborne and Clara Howard Jones Royall. His father was a manufacturer and a leader in civic affairs.

Royall attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va. He entered the University of North Carolina in 1911 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1914. At UNC, Royall was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. In 1917, Royall also earned a LL.B. degree from Harvard Law School. He served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review from 1915 to 1917.

On 18 August 1917, Royall married Margaret Best. They had two children: Kenneth Claiborne Royall, Jr., and Margaret (Mrs. James Evans Davis), and four grandchildren.

In May 1917, Royall entered the Officers' Training Camp at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery Reserve on 15 August 1917. He was assigned to the 317th Field Artillery, 81st Division, at Camp Jackson, S.C. On 17 January 1918, he was promoted to first lieutenant.

In August 1918, Royall sailed for France with the 317th Field Artillery, serving overseas until January 1919. Upon his return to the United States on 25 February 1919, he was honorably discharged.

Royall was admitted to the North Carolina Bar in 1916 and subsequently practiced law in Goldsboro, N.C., from 1919 to 1942 and in Raleigh, N.C., from 1931 to 1942. In 1937, he was a senior partner of Ehringhaus, Royall, Gosney, & Smith at Raleigh and Goldsboro. From 1938 to 1942, he was a senior partner of Royall, Gosney & Smith.

In 1926, Royall was elected to the North Carolina State Senate, where he was chairman of the Banking Committee. There he introduced the present North Carolina Bank Liquidation Statute. He also served as president of the North Carolina Bar Association, 1929-1930.

On 5 June 1942, Royall retired from his law practice in Goldsboro and Raleigh, was commissioned a colonel in the United States Army, and placed in charge of the War Department's legal services. In August 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Royall defense counsel for eight German saboteurs. The case reached the United States Supreme Court.

In May 1943, Royall was made deputy fiscal director of the Army Service Forces, Washington, D.C., and was promoted to brigadier general on 3 November 1943. In April 1945, he became special assistant to the secretary of war, and, on 9 November 1945, Royall took the oath of office as undersecretary of war, having been relieved from active duty the previous day. In November 1945, Royall also received the Distinguished Service Medal with the following citation:

Brigadier General Kenneth C. Royall performed exceptionally meritorious services from May 1943 to November 1945 in positions of great responsibility as Deputy Fiscal Director, Army Service Forces, and as Special Assistant to the Secretary of War. He rendered highly valuable assistance in organizing the office of the Fiscal Director and field installations furnishing fiscal assistance to the Army, as well as in the formulation and execution of basic policies and operational procedures. As Special Assistant to the Secretary of War, he undertook certain assignments requiring him to act for the Secretary and Under Secretary. He maintained contact with the Department of Justice in fraud cases involving war procurement and related matters, and represented the War Department at Congressional hearings. In addition, he maintained liaison between the War Department and Congressional committees investigating various phases of procurement, supervised the selection of witnesses and presentation of evidence to these committees, coordinated visits of the legislative branch to War Department establishments, and recommended action designed to meet valid Congressional obligations. In all his important assignments, General Royall discharged his responsibilities with great effectiveness, acting in the best traditions of the military service and bringing great credit to himself and the United States Army.

On 18 July 1947, Royall was appointed secretary of war by President Truman. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate on 19 July 1947, and he took the oath of office on 24 July 1947. In September 1947, the secretary of war position was terminated and Royall was appointed secretary of the Army. He resigned as secretary of the Army on 27 April 1949.

In December 1949, Royall became a partner at the New York City law firm of Dwight, Harris, Koegel and Caskey. He was promoted to head of that firm in 1958. On 1 January 1968, Royall retired from his law practice.

On 25 May 1971, Kenneth Claiborne Royall died in Durham, N.C., at the age of 76.

From the guide to the Kenneth C. Royall Papers, 1920-1971, (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.)


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  • Presidents--Election--1948
  • Nuremberg War Crime Trials, Nuremberg, Germany, 1946-1949
  • Korean War, 1950-1953
  • Lawyers--History--20th century
  • Government executives--Interviews
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Lawyers--Interviews


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  • North Carolina (as recorded)
  • North Carolina (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)