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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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Patterson, William L. (27 August 1891–05 March 1980), writer, attorney, and leader of the American Communist party, was born William Lorenzo Patterson in San Francisco, California, the son of James Edward Patterson, a ship’s cook and dentist, and Mary Galt, a domestic. After his father left the family to become a missionary as a Seventh-day Adventist, his mother worked to support the family. Failure to pay the rent resulted in numerous evictions, but Patterson managed to attend Tamalpais High School in California by working first as a newsboy and later as a racetrack hand. He graduated from high school in 1911 and studied to be a mining engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, but had to drop out because he could not afford tuition. No scholarships were available, and he objected to Berkeley’s compulsory military training. Later Patterson refused to participate in World War I because he felt it was being fought for a democratic tradition that did not extend to blacks. He was arrested and held for five days in Oakland for declaring it a “white man’s war.”...