Claiborne Pell (born November 22, 1918) was a United States Senator from Rhode Island from 1961 to 1997. A Democrat, he was that State's longest serving Senator. Born in New York City, Pell attended St. George's School in Rhode Island. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Princeton University in 1940, and a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University in 1946. While in Princeton, he was a member of Colonial Club. He served in the United States Coast Guard and United States Coast Guard Reserve, and from 1945 to 1952, he served in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer in Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Washington, D.C..
Pell is largely responsible for the creation of "Pell Grants" in 1973 (originally known as "Basic Educational Opportunity Grants"), which provide financial aid funds to U.S. college students. He was also the main sponsor of the bill which created the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Pell was a supporter of the Stargate Project, in which the U.S. government investigated the pseudoscience of remote viewing.
Pell is the son of former United States Representative Herbert Claiborne Pell, Jr., great-great-grandson of former Congressman John Francis Hamtramck Claiborne, great-great-grandnephew of former Senator and Vice President of the United States George Mifflin Dallas and great-great-great-grandnephew of former Senator and Representative William Charles Cole Claiborne and of former Congressman Nathaniel Herbert Claiborne. He is married to the former Nuala O'Donnell.
Upon his retirement from the Senate, Rhode Island's Newport Bridge was redesignated the "Claiborne Pell Bridge" and Pell Center of International Relations and Public Policy was established at Salve Regina University
In 1993, during the bitter confirmation battle over Roberta Achtenberg, a homosexual, to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Pell stated that his daughter was a lesbian, and that he hoped that it would not be a barrier to federal employment for her. Many agree that Pell, arguably one of the most popular U.S. Senators of the past few decades, helped secure Achtenberg's nomination, making her the first openly homosexual person to be confirmed by the United States Senate.