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Adams, Franklin P. (15 November 1881–23 March 1960), newspaper columnist, humorist, and radio personality, was born Franklin Pierce Adams in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Moses Adams, a dry-goods merchant, and Clara Schlossberg, both German-Jewish immigrants. During his childhood he was an avid reader of the classics, history, nineteenth-century fiction, and light verse. He studied mathematics and science at the Armour Scientific Academy in Chicago, graduating in 1899. He attended the University of Michigan for less than a year, during which he studied literature and after which he began to earn his own living....

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Joyce Brothers. Dr. Joyce Brothers, half-length portrait, facing slightly left, holding a book she wrote, 1957. Photographic print by Phyllis Twacht. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117953).

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Brothers, Joyce (20 October 1927–13 May 2013), psychologist, television and radio personality, and columnist, was born Joyce Diane Bauer in Brooklyn, New York, to Morris K. Bauer and Estelle Rappaport Bauer, a Jewish couple who shared a law practice. She and sister, Elaine, were raised in Queens, where Joyce was an honors student at Far Rockaway High School....

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Cerf, Bennett Alfred (25 May 1898–27 August 1971), publisher and author, was born in New York City, the son of Gustave Cerf, a lithographer, and Frederika Wise, an heiress. Although Frederika had money that accrued from a parental trust fund, Gustave insisted that the family live modestly on his lithographer’s salary. When Cerf was in his teens, his mother died, shortly after giving birth to his sister, who also died. Consequently, sixteen-year-old Cerf became the sole beneficiary of his mother’s sizable trust fund of $125,000....

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Cooke, Alistair (20 November 1908–30 March 2004), journalist, was born Alfred Cooke in Salford, a suburb of Manchester, England, to Samuel Cooke, an iron fitter, insurance salesman, and Methodist lay preacher, and Mary Byrne Cooke. His lifelong interest in America began during World War I, when he became “fascinated” by seven American soldiers billeted in his family's home in Blackpool on Britain's northwest coast (Stewart, p. 5). While at Cambridge University in 1930 he took the name “Alistair,” edited ...

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Alistair Cooke in his home in New York City, 12 October 1972. Associated Press

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Cronkite, Walter Leland, Jr. (04 November 1916–17 July 2009), broadcast journalist, was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri, the son of Walter Leland Cronkite, a dentist, and Helen Fritsche Cronkite. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Kansas City. When he was ten years old his father accepted a position with a dental college in Houston, Texas....

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Walter Cronkite anchors his last CBS election night special in New York City, 4 November 1980. Associated Press

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Clifton Fadiman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Fadiman, Clifton (15 May 1904–20 June 1999), literary critic, anthologist, and radio personality, was born Clifton Paul Fadiman in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants Isidore Michael Fadiman, a pharmacist, and Grace Elizabeth Fadiman (maiden name unknown), a nurse. Fadiman, who was known to friends and family as “Kip,” began his lifelong passion for reading at age four, when he reportedly read his first book. By the time he was a teenager, he had read most or all of Sophocles, Dante, and Milton, among others. Fadiman later remembered that “by the end of high school I was not of course an educated man, but I knew how to try to become one” (quoted in Cross)....

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Hedda Hopper Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97336).

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Hopper, Hedda (02 May 1885–01 February 1966), actress and gossip columnist, was born Elda Furry in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, the daughter of David E. Furry, a butcher, and Margaret Miller. The fifth of nine children, Hopper attended school until the eighth grade, after which she stayed home to help her mother with the household. She had an early driving desire to be on the stage, spurred by seeing ...

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Kieran, John Francis (02 August 1892–10 December 1981), sports writer, radio personality, and naturalist, was born in the Bronx, New York City, the son of James Michael Kieran, an educator, and Kate Donahue. He grew up in a book-oriented home. His father was a public school principal who later became a professor of education at Hunter College and then president of that institution. His mother was a school teacher before her marriage who, said Kieran, “quoted the classics on the slightest provocation.”...

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Kilgallen, Dorothy (03 July 1913–08 November 1965), journalist and radio and television personality, was born Dorothy Mae Kilgallen in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of James Lawrence Kilgallen, a journalist, and Mae Jane Ahern, a singer. Her father’s work took the family to Laramie, Wyoming, then to Indianapolis, Indiana, and back to Chicago, where he began a long association with the Hearst newspaper syndicate. Dorothy attended grade schools in Indianapolis and Chicago. When the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, she continued school there and graduated from high school in 1930. After her freshman year at the College of New Rochelle, she accepted a summer job in 1931 as a cub reporter for the ...

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Levenson, Sam (28 December 1911–27 August 1980), comedian, author, and educator, was born Samuel Levenson in New York City, the son of Hyman Levenson, a tailor, and Rebecca Fishelman. Levenson attended Brooklyn College (now part of the City University of New York), graduating with a B.A. in 1934. From that year until 1946 he taught Spanish in Brooklyn high schools, also serving as a guidance counselor for the final five years. In 1936 he married his childhood sweetheart, Esther Levine, with whom he had two children. His former students and academic advisees still remember him as a warm and funny teacher who took a personal interest in them and their future....

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Parsons, Louella Oettinger (06 August 1881–09 December 1972), journalist, was born in Freeport, Illinois, the daughter of Joshua Oettinger and Helen Wilcox, clothiers. (Some sources give her mother’s maiden name as Stine.) Her father died when she was eight. Her career of writing for newspapers was launched early when the Freeport ...

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Will Rogers Left, with Will Hays, c. 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-83080).

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Rogers, Will (04 November 1879–15 August 1935), entertainer and social commentator, was born William Penn Adair Rogers near Oologah, Oklahoma, in what was then the Cooweescoowee District of Indian Territory, the son of Clement Vann Rogers and Mary America Schrimsher, Cherokee ranchers. Rogers County, which contains both Oologah, site of the historic Rogers home, and Claremore, site of the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum, is named after the prominent father, not the prominent son. “Uncle Clem” was a major player in Oklahoma politics before and after statehood (1907), serving as a judge, as a member of the Dawes Commission (to distribute Indian lands prior to statehood), and as the first local banker. Will’s loving wife, the former Betty Blake, whom he married in 1908, later remembered that “Will had everything he wanted. He had spending money and the best string of cow ponies in the country. No boy in Indian Territory had more than Uncle Clem’s boy.” (Yet being “Uncle Clem’s boy” could have its downside, too.)...

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Shepherd, Jean (26 July 1921–16 October 1999), humorist and multimedia performer, was born Jean Parker Shepherd in Chicago, the son of Jean P. Shepherd, a white-collar worker for Borden Dairies, and Anne Heinrichs Shepherd. A good deal of confusion surrounds the date of Shepherd's birth: it has been reported as 21 or 26 July and with various birth years ranging from 1921 to 1929. Possibly the outgrowth of vanity (after all, it may have been more hip during his New York heyday in the late 1950s through the middle 1960s for him to be “twenty- or thirty-something” rather than “forty-something”), the lack of consistency in his claimed birth year accurately represents his unwillingness to reveal details of his personal life, something that he always claimed had nothing to do with his work. This may seem a strange position for him to have taken, given the fact that generations of Americans believe they know a great deal of Shepherd's life from the stories he told on the radio, wrote for magazine and book publication, and presented on television and in film....

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Sullivan, Ed (28 September 1902–13 October 1974), journalist and television personality, was born Edward Vincent Sullivan in Manhattan, in New York City, the son of Peter Arthur Sullivan, an employee of the customs house, and Elizabeth Smith. The Sullivan family moved from Manhattan to Port Chester, New York, after the death of Sullivan’s twin brother, Daniel, and his sister Elizabeth. Sullivan attended St. Mary’s Parochial School and Port Chester High School. An avid athlete, he earned twelve letters in athletics in high school. Although scholastics never held his interest for long, his love of reading led him to consider becoming a writer. While in high school, he wrote sports columns for the local paper, the ...