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Adams, John (19 October 1735–04 July 1826), second president of the United States, diplomat, and political theorist, was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, the son of John Adams (1691–1760), a shoemaker, selectman, and deacon, and Susanna Boylston. He claimed as a young man to have indulged in “a constant dissipation among amusements,” such as swimming, fishing, and especially shooting, and wished to be a farmer. However, his father insisted that he follow in the footsteps of his uncle Joseph Adams, attend Harvard College, and become a clergyman. John consented, applied himself to his studies, and developed a passion for learning but refused to become a minister. He felt little love for “frigid John Calvin” and the rigid moral standards expected of New England Congregationalist ministers....

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Austin, Warren Robinson (12 November 1877–25 December 1962), U.S. senator and ambassador, was born in the rural community of Highgate Center, Vermont, near the Canadian border, the son of Chauncey Goodrich Austin, a successful country lawyer, and Anne Robinson. He attended the University of Vermont, receiving his Ph.B. in 1899. He married Mildred Lucas in 1901, and they had two children....

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Baker, Howard Henry, Jr. (15 Nov. 1925–26 June 2014), politician and diplomat, was born in Huntsville, Tennessee, to Howard Henry Baker, Sr., a lawyer and politician who subsequently served in the US House of Representatives (1951–1964), and Dora Ladd Baker. The Baker family were staunch Presbyterians, members of the Republican Party since the Civil War, and longtime defenders of civil rights for the minority African American population. Young Baker’s paternal grandfather was a prominent judge, and his maternal grandmother was the first female sheriff in Tennessee....

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Barnard, Daniel Dewey (11 September 1796–24 April 1861), lawyer, congressman, and diplomat, was born in East Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Timothy Barnard, a county judge, and Phebe Dewey. Barnard’s early years were spent on the family farm near Hartford, Connecticut. When he was twelve the family moved to Mendon, New York (near Rochester). His formal education started with a year at Lenox Academy, after which he transferred to Williams College, where he graduated in 1818....

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Barrett, John (28 November 1866–17 October 1938), commercial publicist and diplomat, was born in Grafton, Vermont, the son of Charles Barrett and Caroline Sanford. His father, reportedly shy and withdrawn, served for a time as a town official and a Republican state legislator but devoted most of his life to artistic pursuits. His mother, who was more outgoing, had a lively regard for politics, law, journalism, theology, and economics, and Barrett’s letters to her suggest she strongly influenced him....

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Bayard, Thomas Francis (29 October 1828–28 September 1898), U.S. senator, secretary of state, and ambassador to Great Britain, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of James Asheton Bayard, a political leader and U.S. senator, and Ann Francis. The family had been politically prominent in Delaware for generations, and Thomas was educated in private schools. In 1843, when his father moved briefly to New York, Thomas found employment in a mercantile house there and, for less than a year in about 1846–1847, in Philadelphia. Although he never attended college, he at about the age of twenty began to read law in Wilmington and was admitted to the bar in 1851. He developed a successful practice in Wilmington and Philadelphia administering estates and from 1853 to 1854 served as U.S. district attorney for Delaware. In 1856 he married Louise Lee, with whom he had three sons and six daughters....

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Bohlen, Charles Eustis (30 August 1904–01 January 1974), diplomat, was born in Clayton, New York, the son of Charles Bohlen, a banker, and Celestine Eustis. His mother, the daughter of a U.S. senator and ambassador to France, came from a prominent New Orleans family. Bohlen made frequent boyhood visits to Europe and grew up first in Aitken, South Carolina, and later near Boston. After private schooling he attended Harvard University and graduated in 1927 with a bachelor’s degree in European history. Following a period of soul-searching he entered the Foreign Service in March 1929. In an unusual decision, Bohlen chose the Soviet Union as a special field. Initially posted in Prague, he then trained for two and a half years in Russian language and culture in Paris and, for two summers, in Estonia. In February 1934 he joined the staff of the first American embassy to the Soviet Union under ...

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Borland, Solon (08 August 1811–15 December 1864), editor, U.S. senator, and diplomat, was born in Suffolk, Virginia, the son of Thomas Wood Borland, a physician, and Harriet Godwin. His father was politically active, serving as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Nansemond County between 1815 and 1820. In 1831 Borland married Huldah Wright, with whom he had two children. Following in the medical footsteps of his father, he attended the University of Pennsylvania Medical School during the academic year of 1833–1834. He then practiced medicine in Suffolk, but upon the death of his wife in 1836 Borland moved to Memphis, Tennessee. There he entered into a medical career with his brother, who was also a physician. In 1839 Borland married Eliza Hart, who died just a few months later. They had no children. By this time he had forsaken pills for politics, becoming the founding editor of the ...

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Bullitt, William Christian (25 January 1891–15 February 1967), diplomat, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Christian Bullitt, a lawyer, and Louisa Gross Horwitz, the granddaughter of Samuel Gross, a leading medical researcher and surgeon. His father had made a fortune from investments in coal operations in West Virginia and Virginia. After graduating from DeLancey preparatory school, he entered Yale in 1908. In the summer of 1911, he became very ill, with symptoms of exhaustion, intestinal pain, and diminished sight and hearing. At first doctors attributed the illness to overwork, but when several months’ rest produced no improvement, exploratory surgery revealed adhesions left over from a childhood appendectomy. He was treated with X-rays, a new technique. His health was restored, but the treatment may have caused the leukemia that killed him many years later. As a result of his illness, he graduated from Yale a year late, in 1913....

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Bunche, Ralph Johnson (07 August 1904–09 December 1971), scholar and diplomat, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunch, a barber, and Olive Agnes Johnson. His grandmother added an “e” to the family’s last name following a move to Los Angeles, California. Because his family moved frequently, Bunche attended a number of public schools before graduating first in his class from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles in 1922. He majored in political science at the University of California, Southern Branch (now University of California at Los Angeles or UCLA). He graduated summa cum laude and served as class valedictorian in 1927. He continued his studies in political science at Harvard, receiving his M.A. in 1928, then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., while working toward his Ph.D. at Harvard. In 1930 he married Ruth Ethel Harris; they had three children. Bunche traveled to Europe and Africa researching his dissertation and received his Ph.D. from Harvard in February 1934....

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Cameron, Simon (08 March 1799–26 June 1889), secretary of war, U.S. senator, and ambassador to Russia, was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Cameron, a tailor and tavern keeper, and Martha Pfoutz. Growing up in an often impoverished family, Cameron received little formal schooling. At age eleven he was placed as a ward in the family of a local doctor. Subsequently he apprenticed himself to several printers in the Lancaster-Harrisburg area, and he became the editor of a newspaper. In Harrisburg he caught the attention of important state politicians who helped his journalistic career. At age twenty-three he moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the printing firm of Gales and Seaton, which printed the ...

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Choate, Joseph Hodges (24 January 1832–14 May 1917), lawyer and diplomat, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of George Choate, a physician, and Margaret Manning. He was the salutatorian of the Harvard class of 1852 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1854. He was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1855, and in 1857, after admission to the New York bar, became a partner in the firm of Evarts, Southmayd, and Choate. In October 1861 he married Caroline Dutcher Sterling; they had six children....

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Clark, Joshua Reuben, Jr. (01 September 1871–06 October 1961), diplomat and church leader, was born near Grantsville, Utah, the eldest of the ten children of Joshua Reuben Clark, Sr., and Mary Louisa Woolley, Mormon farmers. Although the family was poor, Clark showed great promise early on and was encouraged to pursue an education. He graduated from the University of Utah in 1898 and went on to Columbia University Law School in 1903. While there he came to the attention of both ...

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Clay, Cassius Marcellus (19 October 1810–22 July 1903), antislavery politician and diplomat, was born in White Hall, Kentucky, the son of Green Clay, a land speculator, and Sally Lewis. Green Clay was one of the wealthiest landowners and slaveholders in Kentucky, and young Cassius was raised in comfort and affluence. He attended Transylvania University (1829–1831) and Yale College (1831–1832), where he received his bachelor’s degree. After returning to Transylvania to study law in 1832–1833, Clay married Mary Jane Warfield in 1833. The marriage produced ten children....

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Daniels, Josephus (18 May 1862–15 January 1948), publisher, secretary of the navy, and ambassador, was born in Washington, North Carolina, during a bombardment by Union gunboats, the son of Josephus Daniels, Sr., a shipbuilder, and Mary Cleaves Seabrook. His father refused to join the Confederate forces and died in 1865. His mother raised three sons by opening a millinery shop and served as the town’s postmistress. She was later fired from the latter position because of her son’s anti-Republican editorials....

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Dayton, William Lewis (17 February 1807–01 December 1864), politician and diplomat, was born at Baskingridge, New Jersey, the son of Joel Dayton, a shoemaker, and Nancy Lewis. After attending a local academy, he matriculated at Princeton College, graduating in 1825 as an “ordinary member” of his class. While teaching school he studied law in Somerville and was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1830. In 1833 he married Margaret Elmendorf Van Der Veer; they had seven children....

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Dillon, C. Douglas (21 August 1909–10 January 2003), financier, ambassador, and secretary of the Treasury, was born Clarence Douglass Dillon in Geneva, Switzerland, to Anne Douglass Dillon and Clarence Dillon, whose Polish Jewish father, Samuel Lapowski, was an immigrant who did fairly well in the men's retail business in Texas. The elder Clarence, who was sensitive about anti-Semitism, changed his last name to Dillon, his paternal grandmother's maiden name. At his firm Dillon, Read & Company during the 1920s and 1930s, he became an extremely successful investment banker and acquired a reputation for purveying corporate bonds. The young Douglas (he was known by his middle name, whose last letter was dropped at some point) was well educated. He first attended the Pine Lodge School in Lakehurst, New Jersey, where he became friendly with ...

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Featherstonhaugh, George William (09 April 1780–27 September 1866), gentleman-farmer, scientist, and diplomat, was born in London, England, the son of George Featherstonhaugh, a manufacturer, and Dorothy Simpson, a shopkeeper. Educated at Stepney House, a private school near Scarborough, Featherstonhaugh spent his youth traveling in Europe and until 1804 was the commercial agent on the Continent for several British import-export firms. After two years working in the London office of Thomas Dickason & Co., Featherstonhaugh moved in 1806 to New York City, where he met Sarah Duane, daughter of a former mayor of New York and owner of a large estate near Schenectady. After their marriage in November 1808, they moved to a country mansion on the estate—now named “Featherston Park”—at Duanesburg, where Featherstonhaugh farmed 2,000 acres, concentrating on sheep and cattle breeding. He and Duane had two sons and two daughters....

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Fletcher, Henry Prather (10 April 1873–10 July 1959), diplomat and Republican party leader, was born in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, the son of Lewis Henry Clay Fletcher, a bank cashier, and Martha Ellen Rowe. Fletcher’s mother died prematurely in 1882, leaving his father to raise eight children alone. Two years later his father accepted an auditor’s position with the Cumberland Railroad, and the family moved to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. After graduating from a nearby private academy, Fletcher served as district court reporter and read law with his uncle, D. Watson Rowe. He passed the bar examination in 1894 and subsequently formed a law partnership with his uncle and became active in the local Republican party. Later, Fletcher would perceive his lack of a college education as a personal shortcoming, despite receiving honorary law degrees from several institutions....

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Foster, John Watson (02 March 1836–15 November 1917), diplomat and secretary of state, was born in Pike County, Indiana, the son of Matthew Watson Foster, a farmer, merchant, and local politician, and Eleanor Johnson. Following graduation from Indiana University in 1855, Foster studied for a year at Harvard Law School, then read law in a Cincinnati law office for an additional year before entering practice in Evansville, Indiana, with Conrad Baker, a prominent lawyer and politician. In 1859 Foster married Mary Parke McFerson, the daughter of a prominent Indiana family. The couple had three daughters, one of whom died before reaching adulthood. His strong antislavery feelings and Republican party loyalties led him to enlist in the Union army when the Civil War erupted in 1861. Completely lacking in military training, he was nevertheless commissioned a major in the Twenty-fifth Indiana Volunteer Infantry and saw action at Fort Donelson and Shiloh, where his gallantry under fire earned him a promotion to colonel. He saw further combat with the Army of the Ohio in East Tennessee, leading the Sixty-fifth Indiana Mounted Infantry into Knoxville, and in Kentucky he directed efforts to protect pro-Union elements from attacks by secessionists....