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William J. Donovan. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109385).

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Donovan, William Joseph (01 January 1883–08 February 1959), lawyer, soldier, and intelligence official, was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Timothy Patrick Donovan, a railroad yardmaster, and Anna Letitia Lennon. After starting college at Niagara University, Donovan transferred to Columbia University from which he received an A.B. in 1905 and an LL.B. in 1907. He joined the law firm of Love and Keating in Buffalo. In 1912 he and Bradley Goodyear formed a partnership that merged with Buffalo’s leading firm, O’Brian and Hamlin, to become O’Brian Hamlin Donovan and Goodyear. Hamlin’s withdrawal led to the firm’s dissolution in 1920. Meanwhile, in 1914, Donovan married socially prominent Ruth Rumsey. They had two children....

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Donald D. Engen. Photograph by Carolyn Russo. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution (#99-15320).

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Engen, Donald Davenport (28 May 1924–13 July 1999), naval officer, test pilot, public servant, was born in Pomona, California, the son of Sydney M. Engen, a stockbroker and later an Internal Revenue Service employee, and Dorothy Davenport Engen. Engen spent his childhood years in southern California, principally in Pasadena. When he was in fourth grade, he decided that he wanted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and become a naval officer....

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Fox, Gustavus Vasa (13 June 1821–29 October 1883), naval officer, assistant secretary of the navy, and business executive, was born in Saugus, Massachusetts, the son of Jesse Fox, a physician, inventor, and manufacturer, and Olivia Flint. Growing up in Lowell, Fox developed an “unconquerable desire” (Jesse Fox to ...

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Grant, Frederick Dent (30 May 1850–12 April 1912), soldier and government official, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Ulysses S. Grant, a soldier and, later, U.S. president, and Julia Dent (Julia Dent Grant). Fred, as he was known, led a normal childhood until his father’s rise during the Civil War afforded opportunities for extraordinary experiences. Ulysses S. Grant allowed Fred to accompany the armies during the Vicksburg campaign (Mar.-July 1863) and to escort him to Washington, D.C., when he went to be commissioned lieutenant general (Mar. 1864). Fred never served as a soldier, but he came under hostile fire while with his father, displaying coolness that General Grant acknowledged by an honorary staff appointment....

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Hershey, Lewis Blaine (12 September 1893–20 May 1977), military officer and director of the Selective Service System, was born in Steuben County, Indiana, the son of Rosetta Richardson and Latta Freleigh Hershey, a farmer. Hershey was raised in northeast Indiana by his father after the death of his mother in 1898. Showing little interest in the family farm, he entered Tri-State College in Angola, Indiana. Working part time as a deputy sheriff, he also played varsity basketball and belonged to several college dramatics clubs. He received a bachelor of science degree in 1912, and he graduated with honors in 1914 with bachelors degrees in arts and pedagogy. His first professional job was as principal of Flint High School in rural Indiana....

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Oliver O. Howard. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-3719).

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Howard, Oliver Otis (08 November 1830–26 October 1909), soldier, government official, and educator, was born in Leeds, Maine, the son of Rowland Bailey Howard and Eliza Otis, farmers. As a boy Howard worked in the company of a young black farmhand, an experience to which he later attributed his broadmindedness in racial matters. Howard graduated from Bowdoin College in 1850 and entered the U.S. Military Academy. He graduated from West Point in 1854, ranked fourth in his class. In 1855 Howard married Elizabeth Ann Waite; the couple had seven children. He first served at the federal arsenals in New York and Maine and then as an ordnance officer in Florida. In 1857 Howard returned to West Point to teach mathematics. The same year he experienced the religious conversion that would earn him such sobriquets as “the Christian Soldier.” His distaste for alcohol and profanity hardly endeared him to many of his fellows. ...

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Johnson, Hugh Samuel (05 August 1882–15 April 1942), army officer and government administrator, was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, the son of Samuel L. Johnson (originally Johnston), a lawyer and rancher, and Elizabeth Mead. Seeking better economic opportunities, his family moved successively to Greenburg, Emporia, Greenwich, and Wichita, Kansas, before finally settling in 1893 in Alva, Oklahoma, in the newly opened Cherokee Strip. There Johnson grew up on the “frontier,” attended Northwestern Normal School (1897–1899), and in 1899 won admission to West Point....

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Miller, James (25 April 1776–07 July 1851), army officer, territorial governor, and customs official, was born at Petersborough, New Hampshire, the son of James Miller and Catharine Gregg. He entered the Andover Academy in 1794, obtained a common education, and briefly attended Williams College in Massachusetts. Miller returned to New Hampshire, studied law under ...

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Albert James Myer, c. 1861–1865. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110271).

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Myer, Albert James (20 September 1828–24 August 1880), army officer, first chief signal officer, and first head of the National Weather Service, was born in Newburgh, New York, the son of Henry Beeckman Myer and Eleanor Pope McClanahan. After his mother’s death in 1835, Albert lived with his aunt, Serena Nixon McClanahan, in Buffalo, New York. Myer learned telegraphy as a boy. He graduated from Geneva (now Hobart) College in 1847....

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Raum, Green Berry (03 December 1829–18 December 1909), soldier and federal official, was born in Golconda, Illinois, the son of John Raum, a lawyer and politician, and Julia Cogswell Field. He attended public schools. In 1851 he married Maria Field, with whom he was to have ten children. After clerking in his father’s office, he was admitted to the bar in 1853. In 1856 he and his family joined the antislavery migration to Kansas, where Raum was active in supporting the free-state cause. He soon returned to Illinois and served as clerk of the state house of representatives. A supporter of ...

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Walter Bedell Smith Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93383).

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Smith, Walter Bedell (05 October 1895–09 August 1961), military officer, ambassador, and government official, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of William Long Smith and Ida Francis Bedell, who earned a comfortable living as silk buyers. A relative had fought in every American war since the Revolution, and all that Bedell, as he was called from childhood, ever wanted to be was an army officer. An exceptionally bright but indifferent student who trained as a machinist at vocational high school, he lacked the influence to secure an appointment to West Point. The day he turned sixteen, therefore, Smith enlisted in the Indiana National Guard. Within a year he was made company sergeant, and in 1916 he accompanied the expedition to Mexico....

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Stewart, Alexander Peter (02 October 1821–30 August 1908), soldier, educator, and park commissioner, was born at Rogersville, Tennessee, the son of William Stewart and Elizabeth Decherd. He entered the U.S. Military Academy on 1 July 1838 and in 1842 graduated twelfth in a class of fifty-six. While at West Point, he roomed for two years with future Union general ...

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Williams, John Foster (12 October 1743–24 June 1814), officer in the Massachusetts State Navy and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. The identities of his parents are unknown, although he is believed to be a descendant of Roger Williams...