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Ashe, Samuel (1725–22 January 1813), judge and governor, was born in Beaufort County, North Carolina, the son of John Baptista Ashe and Elizabeth Swann. His father, Beaufort’s representative in the lower house of the assembly and its Speaker at the time of Samuel’s birth, was allied through marriage to a clique of planters who hoped to open the Cape Fear River to white settlement. In 1727 the elder Ashe moved his family of two sons, ...

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Baldwin, Simeon Eben (05 February 1840–30 January 1927), law professor, judge, and Connecticut governor, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Roger Sherman Baldwin, a lawyer and U.S. senator, and Emily Perkins. Baldwin entered Yale College in 1857 and graduated with a B.A. in 1861. After studying at Yale Law School and Harvard Law School from 1861 to 1863, he was admitted to the Connecticut bar and opened a solo law office in New Haven. He rapidly proceeded to build up the largest individual practice in the state by representing railroads, corporations, and wealthy individuals....

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Cabell, William H. (16 December 1772–12 January 1853), judge and governor of Virginia, was born in Cumberland County, Virginia, the son of Colonel Nicholas Cabell and Hannah Carrington. In 1785 Cabell entered Hampden Sydney College, and in 1790 he attended the College of William and Mary, where he studied law under ...

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Collier, Henry Watkins (17 January 1801–28 August 1855), chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and governor of Alabama, was born on a plantation in Lunenburg County, Virginia, the son of James Collier and Elizabeth Bouldin, planters. When he was one year old, his family moved to the Abbeville District of South Carolina. Collier received a classical education at ...

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Derbigny, Pierre Auguste Charles Bourguignon (1767–06 October 1829), governor and jurist, was born in Laon, France, the son of Auguste Bourguignon d’Herbigny and Louise Angeline Blondel. As members of the French nobility, the Derbigny family escaped the revolution by fleeing to the French West Indian colony on Santo Domingo. Subsequently, Derbigny moved to the mainland, probably because of the political unrest on the island. He lived in Pittsburgh, where he married Félicité Odile Dehault de Lassus. He moved to Missouri and then to Florida before settling permanently in New Orleans around 1800....

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Dickerson, Philemon (26 June 1788–10 December 1862), politician and jurist, was born in Succasunna, New Jersey, the son of Jonathan Dickerson, a landowner and owner of an iron mine, and Mary Coe. Philemon Dickerson graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1808 and immediately began studying law in Philadelphia at the instigation of his elder brother ...

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Gamble, Hamilton Rowan (29 November 1798–31 January 1864), judge and provisional governor of Missouri, was born in Winchester, Virginia, the son of Joseph Gamble and Ann Hamilton, Irish immigrants. Although self-educated, the father wrote extensively on various political and historical topics and, being a staunch Presbyterian, reared his family in the Calvinist tradition. Educated at Hampden-Sydney College (1812–1816), Hamilton studied law and was admitted to the Virginia bar at age eighteen. He left Virginia in 1818 to join his brother Archibald, who was serving as clerk of the St. Louis Circuit Court. After a short time as his brother’s deputy, Gamble moved to the thriving frontier town of Franklin, Missouri, in the heart of the Boonslick Country, to establish his law practice....

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Gayle, John (11 September 1792–21 July 1859), Alabama governor, U.S. congressman, and Alabama jurist, was born in Sumter District, South Carolina, the son of Mary Rees and Matthew Gayle, farmers. Originally from Virginia, Matthew Gayle moved to South Carolina about the time of the American Revolution and served with ...

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Griswold, Matthew (25 March 1714–28 April 1799), jurist, deputy governor, and governor of Connecticut, was born in Lyme, Connecticut, the son of John Griswold and Hannah Lee, farmers. A fourth generation descendant of Lyme’s founders, Griswold received his only formal education in one of the town’s two district schools. In his late twenties he studied law and was admitted to the bar in New London County in 1742. In 1743 he married Ursula Wolcott, daughter of Governor ...

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Jenkins, Charles Jones (06 January 1805–14 June 1883), judge and governor of Georgia, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the only child of Charles J. Jenkins, a planter and the ordinary of the district. His mother’s name is unknown. In 1816 the family moved to Jefferson County, Georgia. Jenkins attended the famous school of ...

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Jones, Thomas Goode (26 November 1844–28 April 1914), lawyer, politician, and judge, was born in Macon, Georgia, the first son of Samuel Goode Jones, a railroad builder and promoter, and Martha Ward Goode Jones; his parents were cousins. At the age of five he was brought by his family to Montgomery, Alabama. Educated there by private tutors, he then attended preparatory schools in Virginia prior to enrolling in the fall of 1860 at the Virginia Military Institute....

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Kent, Edward (08 January 1802–19 May 1877), lawyer, politician, and judge, was born in Concord, New Hampshire, the son of William Austin Kent, a well-to-do merchant and politician, and Charlotte Mellen. After graduating with honors from Harvard University in 1821, Kent studied law briefly with Chancellor ...

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Kerner, Otto (15 August 1908–09 May 1976), federal judge and governor of Illinois, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Otto Kerner, a prominent Democratic political leader, attorney general of Illinois, and U.S. Appeals Court judge, and Rose Chmelik. Educated in public schools in Oak Park, Illinois, and at Chicago Latin School, Kerner graduated from Brown University in 1930, attended Trinity College of Cambridge University in England from 1930 to 1931, and received a law degree from Northwestern University in 1934. That same year he was admitted to the Illinois bar, and the following year he joined his father’s law firm, Kerner, Jaros and Tittle, as a partner. In 1934 Kerner married Helena Cermak Kenlay, the daughter of Chicago mayor ...

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Marvin, William (14 April 1808–09 July 1902), jurist, was born in Fairfield, Herkhimer County, New York, the son of Selden Marvin and Charlotte Pratt, farmers. Shortly after Marvin was born the family moved to Tompkins County, New York. He attended district schools and Homer Academy in Tompkins County. When he was fifteen years old he began teaching at a district school near his home. The next two years he taught in Phelps, New York, returning in the summers to work on the family farm....

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McFarland, Ernest William (09 October 1894–08 June 1984), U.S. Senate majority leader, Arizona governor, and Arizona Supreme Court chief justice, was born in Earlsboro, Oklahoma, the son of William McFarland and Keziah Smith, farmers, who had joined the land rush on the Pottawatomie Strip, formerly Indian Territory. The young McFarland led a demanding life as the child of pioneer farmers in this newly opened section of the American frontier. After graduating from Earlsboro High School in 1914, he completed the two-year program at East Central Normal School (later East Central State Teacher’s College) in Ada. Following a brief stint as a rural schoolteacher, he undertook pre-law studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1917....

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Thomas McKean. Oil on canvas, after 1787, attributed to Charles Willson Peale. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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McKean, Thomas (19 March 1734–24 June 1817), statesman, jurist, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of William McKean, an innkeeper and farmer, and Letitia Finney. He studied at Francis Alison’s New London Academy (1742–1750), then left to study law (1750–1754) with his cousin David Finney of New Castle, Delaware. He joined the Delaware bar in 1754 and expanded his practice into Pennsylvania (1755) and New Jersey (1765). Following his admittance to practice before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1757, he gained admission to the Society of the Middle Temple in London as a specialiter, which permitted him to earn certification in 1758 as a barrister without attending....

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Miller, Nathan Lewis (10 October 1868–26 June 1953), lawyer and politician, was born in Solon, Cortland County, New York, the son of Samuel Miller and Almera Russell, farmers. After graduating from normal school in 1887, he taught school for three years, then clerked in a local law office, and in 1893 was admitted to the New York bar. In 1896 he married Elizabeth Davern, a preceptress at the Marathon Academy; they had seven children. Miller practiced law in Cortland and was elected school commissioner, a position that he held until his appointment in 1900 as corporation counsel. In 1897 he became chairman of the Cortland County Republican Committee....

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Morton, Marcus (19 February 1784–06 February 1864), lawyer, congressman, and governor, was born in Freetown, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Morton, a member of the state’s General Court and Executive Council, and Mary Cary. Morton received most of his education at home until he was fourteen, then he was instructed by the Reverend Calvin Chaddock of Rochester. At age seventeen he entered Brown University’s sophomore class. The choice of Brown rather than Harvard illustrates the “peculiar role” the Rhode Island university played in the “life of Massachusetts” in the early nineteenth century; the Mortons and other descendants of the Pilgrims who grew up in an orthodox rural environment considered Harvard a “godless place” (Darling, p. 28). Morton’s oration at his Brown University commencement pointed to thoughts that would guide his life of public service, especially economy in public affairs. He felt that extravagance led to privilege and inequality. After graduating in 1804, Morton studied law for a year with Judge Seth Paddleford in Taunton before entering ...

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Nicholls, Francis Redding Tillou (20 August 1834–04 January 1912), Louisiana governor and jurist, was born in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, the son of Judge Thomas Clark Nicholls, a state legislator and district court judge, and Louise Hannah Drake. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1855 and was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant. After serving in Florida and California, he resigned his commission and returned in 1856 to Louisiana, where he studied law at the University of Louisiana (now Tulane University). He passed the bar examination without earning a degree and began a successful law practice with his brother Lawrence in Napoleonville. In April 1860 he married Caroline Zilpha Guion; they had one son and five daughters....