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Bryan, William Jennings (19 March 1860–26 July 1925), Democratic party leader, was born in Salem, Illinois, the son of Silas Bryan, a lawyer and judge, and Mariah Jennings. Bryan received strong values from his parents. His father was a Baptist, and his mother was a Methodist; church took a central place in the family’s life. William, at age fourteen, avoided choosing between his parents’ churches by becoming a Presbyterian during a revival meeting. Although he was a devout and active Presbyterian throughout his life, he felt comfortable worshiping with any of the major Protestant denominations. Silas Bryan was also a staunch Jacksonian Democrat, and William enthusiastically embraced his father’s party....

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William Jennings Bryan. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95709).

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Crawford, William Harris (24 February 1772–15 September 1834), U.S. senator, cabinet member, and presidential candidate, was born in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Joel Crawford and Fanny Harris, farmers. In 1779 financial reverses led the Crawfords to move to the Edgefield District of South Carolina and four years later to Kiokee Creek, near Appling, Georgia. Joel Crawford valued education, and his children attended the field schools that served families in rural areas. After Joel’s death in 1788, young William Harris helped out on the farm while teaching at the field school he had recently attended. In 1794, at the age of twenty-two, Crawford enrolled for two years in ...

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William H. Crawford. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97178).

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Davis, John William (13 April 1873–24 March 1955), lawyer and Democratic presidential candidate, was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, the son of John James Davis, a prominent attorney, Presbyterian elder, and former congressman, and Anna Kennedy. Davis earned both the A.B. (1892) and LL.B. (1895) at Washington and Lee University, where he also taught law for one year. In June 1899 he married Julia McDonald of Charles Town. Fourteen months later she died after giving birth to a daughter, who survived. In 1912 he married Ellen Graham Bassel of Clarksburg; they had no children....

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John William Davis. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103176).

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Dewey, Thomas Edmund (24 March 1902–16 March 1971), prosecutor, governor of New York, and presidential candidate, was born in Owosso, Michigan, the son of George Martin Dewey, Jr., a newspaper editor, and Annie Louise Thomas. The Deweys were a Republican family of newspaper editors and publishers. During his youth in Owosso, Thomas showed promise as a baritone, and he studied both music and law at the University of Michigan from 1919 to 1923, graduating with an A.B. In 1923 Dewey moved to New York after winning a summer scholarship for further vocal training, but he also enrolled at Columbia Law School and ultimately decided to abandon music for the law. After graduating with an LL.B. in 1925, he worked at two Wall Street law firms and became active in Republican party politics in Manhattan in the late 1920s. During this time he first encountered ...

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Thomas E. Dewey Right, with Thomas J. Curran, Republican party leader of Manhattan, 1948. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94135).

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Kennedy, Robert Francis (20 November 1925–06 June 1968), politician, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, a capitalist, and Rose Fitzgerald. His father Joseph made a fortune in the stock market and through other investments and served from 1938 to 1940 as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. The seventh of nine children, Robert, known as “Bobby,” graduated from Milton Academy in 1943. In March 1944 he enrolled in the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, leaving it in February 1946 to become an apprentice seaman aboard the destroyer USS ...

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Robert F. Kennedy. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ61-1866).