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Roy Cohn Right, with Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114995).

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Cohn, Roy (20 February 1927–02 August 1986), anti-Communist crusader, powerbroker, and attorney, was born Roy Marcus Cohn in New York City, the son of Al Cohn, a state judge and Democratic party figure, and Dora Marcus. Dora’s father, Sam Marcus, had founded the Bank of United States, which served a largely Jewish, immigrant clientele. The bank failed during the Great Depression, and the trial of Dora’s brother Bernie Marcus for fraud was one of the formative influences of Roy’s childhood. Al Cohn was the son of a pushcart peddler, had attended law school at night, and used his political influence in the Bronx, as well as Dora’s money, to gain a position as a state trial court judge and later a seat on the intermediate state appellate court. Roy was educated at the Horace Mann School. He had an undistinguished career as an undergraduate at Columbia College and was only admitted to Columbia Law School because of the dearth of students caused by World War II and his father’s political influence. Roy did, however, finish both college and law school in three and a half years and, at age twenty, was too young to enter the bar. He spent a year as a clerk/typist for the U.S. attorney for New York and was promoted to assistant U.S. attorney after his twenty-first birthday....

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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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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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Garrison, Jim (20 November 1921–21 October 1992), lawyer, was born Earling Carothers Garrison in Dennison, Iowa, the son of Earling R. Garrison and Jane Ann Robinson, a schoolteacher. He legally changed his name to “Jim” as an adult. Garrison’s parents divorced when he was three, and the boy was raised by his mother in New Orleans. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940 and served as a military aviator during World War II. He left active duty in 1946 and enrolled at Tulane University to study law....

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Jaworski, Leon (19 September 1905–09 December 1982), attorney and Watergate prosecutor, was born Leonidas Jaworski in Waco, Texas, the son of Joseph Jaworski, an Evangelical clergyman, and Marie Mira. Jaworski received a law degree from Baylor University at the age of nineteen and became the youngest person ever admitted to the Texas bar. After receiving a master of law degree from George Washington University in 1926, he practiced law for three years in Waco. His early practice involved a wide variety of civil and criminal matters and included the defense of many persons charged with the illegal sale of alcohol. Despite the opposition of clients and friends, he also undertook the unsuccessful defense of an indigent African American who was accused of murdering a white couple....

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Rogge, O. John (12 October 1903–22 March 1981), attorney, government prosecutor, and civil liberties activist, was born Oetje John Rogge in Cass County, Illinois, the son of Hermann Rogge and Lydia Ann Satorius, farmers. Schooled partly on threshing crews until his late teens, Rogge became the youngest person to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois in 1922 at the age of nineteen. Rogge’s impressive academic achievements at Illinois were followed by a brilliant career at Harvard Law School, where he became an editor of the law review and in 1925 the youngest person to earn an LL.B. in the school’s modern era. Returning to Harvard in the early years of the Great Depression, he took a doctor of laws degree in 1932 and soon followed other recent graduates to Washington, D.C., where, inspired by professors such as ...

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Wilentz, David Theodore (21 December 1894–06 July 1988), attorney general of New Jersey and prosecutor in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case, was born in Dwinsk, Latvia, the son of Nathan Wilentz, a tobacco importer, and Bertha Crane. Wilentz was brought to the United States at age two by his parents, who settled in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. His father became a successful tobacco importer, selling leaf to local cigar makers. One of David’s earliest jobs was delivering tobacco leaf by horse-drawn cart. He attended local public schools, graduating from Perth Amboy High School in 1912. Following graduation he worked briefly for the local Baker Asphalt and Paving Co., after which he began the journalistic phase of his career, working first as a copyboy and reporter and then succeeding soon-to-be-governor Harold Hoffman as sports editor for the ...