Military Wiki
Kenneth Claiborne Royall
56th United States Secretary of War

In office
July 19, 1947 – September 18, 1947
President Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Robert P. Patterson
Succeeded by None
1st United States Secretary of the Army

In office
September 18, 1947 – April 27, 1949
President Harry S. Truman
Preceded by none
Succeeded by Gordon Gray
Personal details
Born July 24, 1894
Goldsboro, North Carolina
Died May 25, 1971 (age 76)
Durham, North Carolina
Alma mater University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Harvard Law School
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1917–1921, 1942–1945
Rank Brigadier General
Battles/wars World War I
World War II

Kenneth Claiborne Royall (July 24, 1894 – May 25, 1971) was a United States Army general and the last person to hold the office of Secretary of War. That position was abolished in 1947, and Royall served as the first Secretary of the Army (a successory position) from 1947 to 1949.

Life and career

A native of Goldsboro, North Carolina, Royall graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and Harvard Law School before serving in World War I. He then practiced law and was elected to the North Carolina Senate as a Democrat. At the beginning of World War II, he became a colonel in the U.S. Army.

According to a 2006 newspaper column by Jack Betts, "When eight Nazis bent on mayhem came ashore on Long Island in 1942, they were soon caught and ordered to stand trial in a secret military tribunal. President Roosevelt appointed Royall to defend them, but the president didn't want any foolishness. He wanted the Nazis executed, the sooner the better. Royall's orders were to stay away from civilian courts. Royall wrote Roosevelt that he didn't think the president had authority to convene a secret court to try his clients, and asked the president to change his order. Roosevelt refused—whereupon Royall appealed to the U.S. District Court, arguing the secret tribunal was unconstitutional.

The court rejected that argument, so Royall and other lawyers in his office appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rejected Royall's argument in a brief announcement in July 1942, and upheld the right of the president to appoint a secret tribunal. But Royall had succeeded in getting civilian court review of the tribunals' constitutionality despite the president's preference to hush things up. The Supreme Court published a fuller opinion in October, saying, 'Constitutional safeguards for the protection of all who are charged with offense are not to be disregarded.' By then, six of Royall's clients were dead. They were tried, convicted and executed in August 1942, days after the Supreme Court's brief announcement upholding Roosevelt's tribunals. Two were sent to prison. Royall later said he believed his defense of the Nazis was the most important work he did in a long and illustrious career. He was promoted to brigadier general. He served as Under Secretary of War from November 9, 1945 until July 18, 1947.[1] President Truman named him Secretary of War in 1947. He became the first Secretary of the Army two months later.

Royall was forced into retirement in April 1949 for continuing to refuse to desegregate the Army even nearly a year after President Truman promulgated Executive Order 9981.[2]

In December 1949, Royall became a partner at the prestigious New York City law firm of Dwight, Harris, Koegel and Caskey, becoming the firm's head in 1958. The firm was later renamed Rogers & Wells, and subsequently Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells after its merger with British firm Clifford Chance. He died in Durham in 1971.

His son, Kenneth Claiborne Royall, Jr. (1919–1999) served in the North Carolina House of Representatives from 1967 to 1972 and in the state Senate from 1973 to 1992.


  1. Kenneth Claiborne Royall, United States Secretary of Army
  2. Robert B. Edgerton, Hidden Heroism: Black Soldiers in America's Wars, at 165 (Barnes & Noble 2009).

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
as United States Secretary of War
United States Secretary of the Army
September 1947 – April 1949
Succeeded by
Gordon Gray
Preceded by
Robert P. Patterson
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: Harry S. Truman

July 1947 – September 1947
Succeeded by
as United States Secretary of the Army
Preceded by
Robert P. Patterson
United States Under Secretary of War
November 1945 – July 1947
Succeeded by
William Henry Draper Jr.

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