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Alioto, Joseph L. (12 February 1916–29 January 1998), businessman and mayor, was born Joseph Lawrence Alioto in San Francisco, California, the son of Giuseppe Alioto, a businessman, and Domenica Lazio Alioto. After receiving his early education in local parochial schools, he earned a B.A. from St. Mary's College in Moraga, California, in 1937. An excellent student, he entered the law school at Catholic University on a scholarship and received his J.D. in 1940. Although he gained admittance to the California bar that same year, he remained in Washington and began working at the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. He married Angelina Genaro on 2 June 1941; the couple would have six children....

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Newton D. Baker Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-101852).

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Baker, Newton Diehl (03 December 1871–25 December 1937), lawyer, mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, and secretary of war, was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, the son of Newton Diehl Baker, a physician and former Confederate soldier, and Mary Ann Dukehart. Baker graduated in 1892 from Johns Hopkins University, where he first met ...

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Behrman, Martin (14 October 1864–12 January 1926), mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, was born in New York City, the son of working-class German-Jewish parents, Henry Behrman, a cigar maker, and Frederica (maiden name unknown). The family moved to New Orleans when Martin was seven months old. His father died while his son was still too young to remember him in later years. His mother ran a dry goods stand in the Quarter’s French Market after her husband’s death. She died in 1876 leaving Behrman an orphan at twelve....

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Tom Bradley of Los Angeles, talks to Mayor Abraham Beame of New York, 15 July 1974, Los Angeles, CA Courtesy of AP Images

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Bradley, Tom (29 December 1917–29 September 1998), politician, was born Thomas Bradley to Lee and Crenner Hawkins Bradley, sharecroppers, on a cotton plantation in Calvert, Texas. He was the grandson of slaves in the Carolinas. When Tom was seven, the family moved to Los Angeles, where his father worked variously as a waiter, railroad porter, and steamship crewman. After his parents separated, Crenner Bradley worked as a maid. Tom and his siblings remained with their mother, but his father kept in regular contact. Both parents, but especially Tom's mother, encouraged their children to do well in school and applauded their accomplishments. For Tom, these included athletic achievements. As a student at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles, Bradley became a track star as well as an all-city tackle on the football team. He was also popular with fellow students and defeated a white student for the presidency of the school's Boys League....

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Byrne , Jane (24 May 1933–14 November 2014), mayor of Chicago, was born Jane Margaret Burke in Chicago, Illinois. The second of six children of William Patrick Burke and Katherine Marie Nolan, she came from a well-heeled family (her father was a vice president of Inland Steel). She was raised in a devoutly Catholic household; two of her uncles were priests. The Burke family was also politically aware. Among her earliest “radio memories” were the voices of President ...

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Cermak, Anton Joseph (09 May 1873–06 March 1933), mayor of Chicago, Illinois, was born in Kladno, Czechoslovakia (then a province in the Austro-Hungarian Empire), the son of Anton Cermak, a miner, and Catherine Frank. Cermak’s family arrived in the United States in 1874 and settled in Braidwood, Illinois, where young Cermak had a few years of schooling before he moved to Chicago in 1889. He engaged in a number of businesses including wood hauling, real estate, and insurance. In 1894 he married Mary Horejs, with whom he had three children. He began his political career in 1894 as an assistant precinct captain and gradually worked his way up until 1902 when he won election as state representative. From then until his death he always held one or more elective appointments in Chicago, Cook County, or the state of Illinois, as well as Democratic party offices. Beginning in 1902 he won four successive elections to the Illinois state legislature. In 1909 he was elected alderman in Chicago, representing a predominantly Czech ward. The Czech ethnic group was to be the base for his political success at the city, county, and state levels....

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De Witt Clinton. Lithograph of a painting by Henry Inman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-UXZ62-50394).

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Clinton, De Witt (02 March 1769–11 February 1828), New York City mayor and New York State governor, was born in Little Britain, New York, the son of James Clinton, a career military man who became a brigadier general in the American army, and Mary De Witt. He was educated by a neighboring Presbyterian minister until he reached age thirteen and then spent two years at the Kingston Academy. After the revolutionary war came to an end, and the city of New York was liberated, Clinton was among the first to enroll at the newly named Columbia College, formerly known as King’s College, which reopened in 1784. On graduating, with honors, in April 1786, he read law in the Manhattan office of ...

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Conrad, Robert Taylor (10 June 1810–27 June 1858), dramatist and mayor of Philadelphia, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Conrad, a publisher, and Eliza (maiden name unknown). Urged by his father, in 1831 Conrad became an attorney. But he found himself attracted more to journalism and literature than to the legal profession, and from 1831 to 1834 he worked for the ...

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James Couzens. [left to right] C. C. Dill, Owen Young, and James Couzens, before the Senate Interstate Commerce Commission. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98142).

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Couzens, James (26 August 1872–22 October 1936), businessman, mayor of Detroit, and U.S. senator, was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, the son of James J. Couzens and Emma Clift, an immigrant couple from England. Raised in a stern Presbyterian household and a lower-income family that lived on the “muddiest” street in town, young Couzens’s education was capped by two years of bookkeeping study at Chatham’s Canada Business College. He worked as a newsboy and then stirring smelly, boiling vats for his father, who had parlayed his skills as a soapmaker and salesman into ownership of a small soap-making factory. Displaying an assertive independence, which contemporaries noted that he had inherited from his stern-willed father, young Couzens set off for Detroit to test his mettle in the larger world and in 1890 was taken on as a railroad car–checker for the Michigan Central. Five years later he became an assistant bookkeeper for Alex Malcomson’s coal business, which brought him into contact with a mechanical tinkerer and automobile pioneer named ...

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Cruger, Henry, Jr. (22 November 1739–24 April 1827), merchant, member of Parliament, mayor of Bristol, England, and New York state senator, was born in New York City, the son of Henry Cruger and Elizabeth Harris. The Cruger family had long been prominent in the economic and political life of New York, and Henry Cruger, Jr., enjoyed an assured position in the Atlantic community throughout his career. His paternal grandfather had migrated in 1698 from Bristol, England, to New York, where he became a prosperous merchant and shipowner and also an alderman and mayor. His father was also a merchant and shipowner trading between England, North America, and the West Indies as well as a member of the provincial assembly and the governor’s council. John Cruger, his uncle, was the first president of the New York Chamber of Commerce, an alderman and mayor of New York, a member and speaker of the provincial assembly, and a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765. John Harris Cruger, an older brother, succeeded their father as a member of the governor’s council....

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Curley, James Michael (20 November 1874–12 November 1958), mayor of Boston and governor of Massachusetts, was born in Boston, the son of Irish immigrants Michael Curley, a laborer, and Sarah Clancy, a washerwoman. The death of his father, when Curley was ten, marked the boy’s childhood. Forced to enter the paid workforce in his teens, Curley worked as a store clerk and in a variety of other jobs before becoming active in the ward politics of his Roxbury neighborhood. To advance his political career, he joined a series of Irish fraternal organizations, became active in Catholic lay affairs, and developed his skills as a public speaker. In 1897 he failed on his first attempt to win a seat on the Common Council of Boston, but he prevailed two years later....

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Curtis, Edwin Upton (26 March 1861–28 March 1922), police commissioner and mayor of Boston, was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, the son of George Curtis, a lumber merchant and Republican politician, and Martha Ann Upton. Curtis attended the Roxbury public grammar and Latin schools and Bowdoin College (A.B. 1882; A.M. 1885; LL.D. 1914). He read law at a Boston firm and attended Boston University Law School. Admitted to the bar in 1885, he practiced law and in 1888 became secretary of the Boston Republican City Committee. Elected city clerk of Boston in 1889, he served for two years....

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Daley, Richard Joseph (15 May 1902–20 December 1976), mayor of Chicago, was born in a working-class neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, the son of Michael Daley, a sheetmetal worker, and Lillian Dunne. He attended Catholic schools and after several long years of night school graduated from DePaul Law School in 1934....

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DiSalle, Michael Vincent (06 January 1908–15 September 1981), attorney and politician, was born in New York City, the son of Anthony DiSalle, an entrepreneur, and Assunta D’Arcangelo. In 1911 his family moved to Toledo, Ohio, where DiSalle grew up. After graduating from Central Catholic High School, he attended Georgetown University to study law. In 1930 he married Myrtle Eugene England; they had five children. He graduated in 1931 and returned to Toledo to practice law....

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Neal Dow. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90764).

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Dow, Neal (20 March 1804–02 October 1897), politician and social reformer, was born in Portland, Maine, the son of Josiah Dow and Dorcas Allen, operators of a tanning business. He received a basic education at the Portland Academy and later at the Friends’ Academy in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He also received an education in social involvement from his parents, who were ardent Quakers, committed to various types of social reform. As a child Neal witnessed escaped slaves moving through his home, which was a station on the Underground Railroad. His father traveled widely in New England in the interests of antislavery, with the support of the Society of Friends. Dow wanted to attend college and become a lawyer, but his parents objected, so he went into partnership with his father in the family business. In 1830 he married Maria Cornelia Durant Maynard; they had nine children, five of whom survived to adulthood....