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Bates, Edward (04 September 1793–25 March 1869), political leader and attorney general of the United States, was born in Goochland County, Virginia, the son of Thomas Fleming Bates, a planter and merchant, and Caroline Matilda Woodson. A Quaker, Thomas Bates was read out of meeting when he enlisted to fight in the Revolution, from which he emerged deeply in debt. Edward nevertheless grew up surrounded by slaves. After his father died in 1805, Edward received a good education at the home of his cousin Benjamin Bates in Hanover, Maryland, and then at Charlotte Hall Academy in St. Marys County, Maryland....

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Crittenden, John Jordan (10 September 1786–26 July 1863), U.S. senator, U.S. attorney general, and governor of Kentucky, was born in Woodford County, Kentucky, the son of John Crittenden, a landholder, and Judith Harris. His father served with Morgan’s Riflemen and later with General ...

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Cummings, Homer Stillé (30 April 1870–10 September 1956), attorney, Democratic party leader, and attorney general of the United States, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Uriah C. Cummings, a businessman, and Audie Schuyler Stillé. Educated at the Heathcote School in upstate New York, the Sheffield School of Engineering of Yale University, and the Yale Law School, from which he graduated in 1893, Cummings opened a legal practice in Stamford, Connecticut, soon thereafter and formed a partnership with Charles D. Lockwood that lasted until he joined the ...

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Daugherty, Harry Micajah (26 January 1860–12 October 1941), politician, was born in Washington Court House, Ohio, the son of John H. Daugherty, a farmer and merchant tailor, and Jane Draper. John Daugherty died of diphtheria when Harry was only four years of age, and Harry was weakened by the disease. The family struggled financially, and Harry learned to fend for himself, working in a series of odd jobs as a youth. Spurning his mother’s desire for him to become a Methodist minister, Daugherty instead chose law as a profession. Though he had not attended college, Daugherty enrolled at Michigan Law School and graduated in 1881. In 1884 he married Lucy Walker, and they had one son and one daughter....

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Johnson, Reverdy (21 May 1796–10 February 1876), lawyer, U.S. attorney general, and U.S. senator, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of John Johnson, a lawyer and Maryland legislator, and Deborah Ghieselen. A member of a distinguished Maryland legal family (John Johnson served as a judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, chancellor, and attorney general), Johnson was educated at St. John’s College in Annapolis. After graduating in 1811 and serving briefly as a private in the War of 1812, he began his legal training under his father and entered the bar in 1816. He established his law practice in Baltimore in 1817 and remained active in the Baltimore bar for the next sixty years. He married Mary Mackall Bowie in 1819, with whom he had fifteen children....

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Kennedy, Robert Francis (20 November 1925–06 June 1968), politician, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, a capitalist, and Rose Fitzgerald. His father Joseph made a fortune in the stock market and through other investments and served from 1938 to 1940 as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. The seventh of nine children, Robert, known as “Bobby,” graduated from Milton Academy in 1943. In March 1944 he enrolled in the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, leaving it in February 1946 to become an apprentice seaman aboard the destroyer USS ...

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Kleindienst, Richard G. (05 August 1923–03 February 2000), government official, was born Richard Gordon Kleindienst on a farm near Winslow, Arizona, the son of Alfred R. Kleindienst, a railroad brakeman and local postmaster, and Gladys Love Kleindienst. His mother died when he was still a young boy, and his father hired a Navajo woman to serve as housekeeper for the family. She taught him the Navajo language, in which he became exceptionally proficient. Kleindienst later said that the diversified racial composition of Winslow—more Indians, Mexicans, and Asians than whites—gave him important lessons in respect for the rights of all human beings....

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Knox, Philander Chase (06 May 1853–12 October 1921), attorney general, U.S. senator, and secretary of state, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of David S. Knox, a banker, and Rebecca Page. He attended Mount Union College in Ohio and graduated with an A.B. degree in 1872. While in Ohio he became friends with ...

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Legaré, Hugh Swinton (02 January 1797–20 June 1843), jurist and attorney general of the United States, was born on John’s Island, South Carolina, the son of Solomon Legaré, a planter, and Mary Splatt Swinton. Legaré’s father died when Legaré was two years old. Fortunately his paternal grandfather, a South Carolina planter of Huguenot heritage, provided Legaré’s mother with the means for his upbringing. Legaré’s life was marked by many medical maladies, the first of which was an injurious childhood smallpox inoculation that not only left him scarred but also led, it seems, to a disproportionate shortness of his limbs. Nevertheless, he was a precocious child and in 1814 graduated first in his class from South Carolina College in Columbia, where he received a thoroughly classical education....

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McReynolds, James Clark (03 February 1862–24 August 1946), associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and attorney general of the United States, was born in Elkton, Kentucky, the son of John Oliver McReynolds, a doctor, and Ellen Reeves. He graduated first in his class from Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tenn.) in 1882. After spending an additional year there as a fellow and assistant in natural history and geology, he entered the University of Virginia School of Law. Earning his law degree in little more than a year, he returned to Nashville in 1884 and opened a law office....

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Moody, William Henry (23 December 1853–02 July 1917), cabinet officer, member of Congress, and justice of the Supreme Court, was born in Newbury, Massachusetts, the son of Henry Lord Moody and Melissa Emerson, farmers. Moody graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, in 1872 and received an A.B. from Harvard in 1876. He studied at the Harvard Law School for four months and then left to read law in the office of ...

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Palmer, A. Mitchell (04 May 1872–11 May 1936), attorney general and congressman, was born Alexander Mitchell Palmer in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Bernard Palmer, a lumberyard owner and bridge builder, and Caroline Albert. A Quaker, Palmer attended Swarthmore College, graduating in 1891, first in his class and class president. In college he evidenced the prejudice against immigrants then common among white native-born Protestants. Certain judicial reforms, he declared, would “insure justice … to the lowest foreigner who comes to our free land as well as to the highborn American through whose veins course the blood of the Pilgrim fathers.”...

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Richardson, Elliot (20 July 1920–30 December 1999), attorney and public official, was born Elliot Lee Richardson in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Edward P. Richardson, a physician, and Clara Shattuck Richardson. The scion of an old and locally distinguished family with a long history of achievement in both medicine and politics, Richardson graduated from Milton Academy and entered Harvard, where he majored in philosophy and drew cartoons for the Harvard ...

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Rodney, Caesar Augustus (04 January 1772–10 June 1824), attorney general and diplomat, was born in Dover, Delaware, the son of Thomas Rodney, a scholarly merchant and politician, and Elizabeth Maud Fisher. In his youth the family moved between Dover, Philadelphia, and Wilmington. After his mother’s death in 1783, he lived with relatives or friends when not away at school. He was the principal legatee of his uncle ...

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Speed, James (11 March 1812–25 June 1887), U.S. attorney general, was born in Jefferson County, Kentucky, the son of John Speed and Lucy Gilmer Fry, wealthy planters. He graduated in 1828 from St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown, Kentucky, worked as a clerk for the county court for two years, then studied law at Transylvania University in Lexington. In 1833 he began a law practice in Louisville. Speed’s family connections, gentlemanly demeanor, superior education, and dedication to his clients soon made him a highly successful lawyer. In 1840 he married Jane Cochran, with whom he had seven children....

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Stanton, Edwin McMasters (19 December 1814–24 December 1869), U.S. attorney general and secretary of war, was born in Steubenville, Ohio, the son of David Stanton, a physician, and Lucy Norman. As a child, Stanton contracted a chronic asthmatic condition that plagued him throughout his life and may have contributed to the brusque irritability that characterized his temperament. Young Stanton attended local academies and, after his father’s death in 1827, took a position as an apprentice in a Steubenville bookstore. In 1831 he entered Kenyon College, but his family’s financial problems forced him to leave the following year. After working briefly at a bookstore in Columbus, Ohio, Stanton returned to Steubenville to study law in the office of his guardian, Daniel L. Collier. In 1836 he entered a partnership with Chauncey Dewey in Cadiz, Ohio. That year he married Mary A. Lamson, with whom he had two children....

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Taney, Roger Brooke (17 March 1777–12 October 1864), lawyer, politician, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Calvert County, Maryland, the son of Michael Taney, a planter and politician, and Monica Brooke. The Taneys had been slaveholding planters since the first Taney arrived in Maryland in the 1660s, and at the time of Roger’s birth the family ranked among the most prestigious in the county. Originally Anglican, the Taneys had abandoned the English church for Catholicism well before the birth of Michael Taney, possibly in imitation of leading Maryland families....

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Wickersham, George Woodward (19 September 1858–25 January 1936), attorney, Republican party leader, and attorney general of the United States, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Morris Wickersham, an inventor and businessman, and Elizabeth Cox. Raised by his maternal grandparents in Philadelphia after his mother died in childbirth and his father became absorbed in the iron and steel business, Wickersham grew up in privileged circumstances on the fringes of the city’s social elite. His grandfather, for example, had helped found the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. Wickersham studied civil engineering at Lehigh University in the mid-1870s and caught the eye of one of the city’s leading Republican politicians, ...

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Wirt, William (08 November 1772–18 February 1834), attorney general of the United States and anti-Masonic candidate for president, was born in Bladensburg, Maryland, the son of Jacob Wirt, a Swiss tavernkeeper, and Henrietta (maiden name unknown). The youngest of six children, Wirt was orphaned by the age of eight and entrusted to the care of an aunt for his upbringing. Wirt worked hard to raise himself up from this inauspicious beginning. Much of his youth was spent in a succession of boarding schools in the Georgetown area. By the time Wirt was fifteen, the small inheritance left him by his parents was nearly exhausted. He spent the next few years earning a small livelihood as a private tutor but was ambitious and wanted to make more for himself. In 1792, after moving to Culpeper County, Wirt was admitted to the Virginia bar....