Elihu Root (February 15, 1845 – February 7, 1937) was an American lawyer and statesman and the 1912 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the prototype of the 20th century "wise man", who shuttled between high-level government positions in Washington, D.C. and private-sector legal practice in New York City.
Root was born in Clinton, New York, to Oren Root and Nancy Whitney Buttrick. His father was professor of mathematics at Hamilton College, where Elihu attended college; there he joined the Sigma Phi Society, and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society After graduation, Root taught for one year at the Rome (N.Y.) Free Academy. In 1867, Root graduated from the New York University School of Law. He went into private practice as a lawyer. While mainly practicing corporate law, Root was a junior defense counsel during the corruption trial of William "Boss" Tweed. Root also had private clients including Jay Gould, Chester A. Arthur, Charles Anderson Dana, William C. Whitney, Thomas Fortune Ryan, and E. H. Harriman.
Root was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York by President Chester A. Arthur.
Root married Clara Frances Wales (died in 1928), who was the daughter of Salem Wales, the managing editor of Scientific American, in 1878. They had three children: Edith (married Ulysses S. Grant III), Elihu, Jr. (who became a lawyer), and Edward Wales (who became Professor of Art at Hamilton College).
Root was a member of the Union League Club of New York and twice served as its president, 1898-99, and again from 1915-16.