J. William Fulbright

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Pioneer with Vision

Educational Exchange for a More Peaceful World

Perhaps best remembered for the exchange program carrying his name, Senator J. William Fulbright was a distinguished 20th century statesman who served for more than thirty years in the United States Congress. Born in 1905, Senator Fulbright spent the majority of his life in Arkansas prior to receiving a Rhodes Scholarship for study at Oxford University in England from 1925 to 1928. His experience as an educational exchange participant abroad would prove transformative, contributing to the internationalist outlook that would characterize his later political life and pioneering vision for the Fulbright Program. Entering the U.S. Congress in 1943, Senator Fulbright strongly influenced U.S. foreign policy and international affairs over the course of his political career, serving first as a member and then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a position he held for 15 years, making him the longest serving chairman of the Committee in congressional history. Honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom prior to his death in 1995, Senator Fulbright’s influence continues to this day through the Fulbright Program, which provides grants to students, scholars, and professionals worldwide for the building of mutual understanding and a more peaceful world through educational exchange..

Fulbright Program

1946: A Vision Comes to Life

Entering the U.S. Congress in 1943 in the midst of World War II, Senator Fulbright’s vision for a more peaceful world would prompt him after the war’s conclusion to propose the formation of a new educational exchange program to build mutual understanding between nations and between communities. Confident that educational and cultural exchange was key to promoting world peace, Senator Fulbright proposed a bill to financially support exchanges between the United States and countries around the world utilizing funds from the sale of military surplus. Now known as the Fulbright Act, the bill was approved unanimously by the 79th Congress of the United States and was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on August 1, 1946, leading the way to the first Fulbright grantees undertaking exchange abroad in 1948. Since then, over 390,000 Fulbright grant recipients, including students, scholars, and professionals, have shared knowledge across communities and made lasting connections through international educational and cultural exchange.

Fulbright Mission

Building Mutual Understanding through Shared Knowledge

In today’s complex and changing world, the continued place of international educational and cultural exchange in creating lasting connections and mutual understanding has never been more apparent and never more needed. The Fulbright Program continues its legacy of supporting students, scholars, and professionals in the sharing of knowledge across communities. In the process, Fulbright grantees and alumni enrich educations, advance careers, and make meaningful contributions to the communities, and the world, in which they live.

J. William Fulbright

  • 1905 Born in Missouri
  • 1925 Received B.A. in Political Science from the University of Arkansas
  • 1928 Earned M.A. from Oxford University, England as a Rhodes Scholar
  • 1934 Completed a degree in law at George Washington University
  • 1934-1935 Served as attorney in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice
  • 1936-1939 Lectured in law at the University of Arkansas
  • 1939-1941 Led as President of the University of Arkansas
  • 1942 Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives
  • 1943 Joined the House Foreign Affairs Committee
  • 1945-1974 Elected to the U.S. Senate
  • 1946 Promoted the passage of legislation establishing the Fulbright Program
  • 1949 Joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • 1959-1974 Presided as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • 1974-1993 Acted as counsel for the Hogan & Hartson law firm in Washington, D.C.
  • 1993 Honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton
  • 1995 Died of a stroke at the age of 89 in Washington, D.C.

Fulbright & the Fulbright Act of 1946 (video)