Sculptor George Conlon was born in Lonaconing, Maryland, to a working-class family, and sought employment at an early age in the Allegany coal mines. There the aspiring artist was reported to have made a bust of Maryland Governor Edwin Warfield from the plastic clay that was used to plug holes in the mine walls. Impressed by the portrait, the governor helped Conlon launch his art career. After attending the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Conlon was awarded the prestigious Rinehart Scholarship, allowing him to study in Paris at the Academie Julian and the Academie Colarossi. While in Paris, he assisted Paul Bartlett in designing a sculptural group for the House pediment of the U.S. Capitol. With the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Conlon returned to America, where he continued sculpting.
It is said that Conlon admired Cordell Hull, and records indicate that after his return from France, the artist sought a meeting with the secretary of state to gain approval to model his portrait bust. Conlon was subsequently provided space at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., for sittings with the secretary. Once the clay model was completed and Secretary Hull had announced his resignation in 1944, the Cumberland (Maryland) Evening and Sunday Times decided to honor Hull by presenting Conlon’s bust to the nation. In a joint resolution, adopted on December 4, 1944, Congress authorized the Joint Committee on the Library to accept the newspaper’s gift. The bronze bust of Cordell Hull was unveiled in the Senate Reception Room the following year.
Among Conlon’s public sculptures are a bust of General John Pershing at the National Headquarters of the American Legion in Indianapolis, Indiana, and a memorial monument in Biarritz, France. Conlon’s work also is owned by the Maryland Historical Society.
Cordell Hull, who served in both houses of Congress and came to be known as the "Father of the United Nations," was born in Overton (now Pickett) County, Tennessee. Hull was a member of the Tennessee legislature from 1893 to 1897, and he later served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War. After tenure as a circuit court judge, he was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives. During his House terms, from 1907 to 1921 and 1923 to 1931, Hull took particular interest in taxation and tariff programs. He wrote the first federal income tax bill in 1913, sponsored estate tax legislation, and called for a reduction in trade barriers.
Hull was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1930 and resigned three years later when he was appointed secretary of state by Franklin D. Roosevelt. In this post, Hull emphasized international economic policy and was responsible for reciprocal trade agreements with a number of nations. He also helped formulate the Good Neighbor policy with Latin America. When World War II broke out in Europe, Hull worked with Roosevelt to provide aid to the Allied nations, despite opposition from isolationists in Congress. With the entry of the United States into the war, Hull turned his attention to the development of a world organization to maintain peace for the future. He resigned as secretary of state in 1944 because of ill health, but his efforts to build international alliances were not forgotten; Hull was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945. That same year, he was appointed senior advisor to the U.S. delegation attending the San Francisco conference that formally ratified the United Nations Charter. In his retirement, Hull continued to reside in Washington, D.C., where he died in 1955.