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Abbott, Joseph Carter (15 July 1825–08 October 1881), senator and journalist, was born in Concord, New Hampshire, the son of Aaron Carter Abbott, a farmer and laborer, and Nancy Badger. After graduating in 1846 from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Abbott studied law. He began his practice in Concord in 1852, the year he became editor and proprietor of the ...

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Adams, Henry Cullen (28 November 1850–09 July 1906), legislator and public servant, was born in Verona, Oneida County, New York, the son of Benjamin Franklin Adams, a professor of classical languages at Hamilton College, and Caroline Shepard. His parents moved to southern Wisconsin before the Civil War, and young Henry grew up on a farm, acquiring an attachment to agriculture that would permeate the remainder of his life. He was educated in country schools, at Albion College, and then spent three years during the 1870s at the University of Wisconsin, but fragile health forced him to quit before earning a degree. Adams returned to his father’s farm near Madison and in 1878 married Anne Burkley Norton, with whom he had four children....

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John Adams. After a painting by Gilbert Stuart. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-13002 DLC).

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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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John Quincy Adams. From a painting by George Peter Alexander Healy. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117119 DLC).

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Adams, John Quincy (11 July 1767–23 February 1848), secretary of state, sixth president of the United States, and U.S. congressman, was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, the son of John Adams (1735–1826), second president of the United States, and Abigail Smith Adams (Abigail Adams...

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Agnew, Spiro T. (09 November 1918–17 September 1996), vice president, was born Spiro Theodore Agnew in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Margaret Pollard Akers Agnew and Theodore Spiro Agnew, who, after immigrating from Greece in 1897, changed his name from Anagnostopoulos. Agnew's father was a successful restaurateur and a leader in the Greek community until the Great Depression, when he lost his business and turned to selling fruit and vegetables on the street. Agnew supplemented the family income by doing odd jobs while he attended public schools in Baltimore. After graduating from Forest Park High School, he entered Johns Hopkins in 1937, majoring in chemistry, but in 1940 he left and began taking night classes at the University of Baltimore School of Law. During the day he worked alternately as an assistant personnel manager of a grocery-store chain and as an insurance investigator and claims adjuster. In 1942 he married Elinor Isabel Judefind, a coworker at his insurance company; they had four children....

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Aiken, D. Wyatt (17 March 1828–06 April 1887), agricultural editor and congressman, was born David Wyatt Aiken in Winnsboro, South Carolina, the son of David Aiken, a merchant and planter, and Nancy Kerr. Descended from an Irish family that had prospered in the United States, Aiken received an excellent education at Mount Zion Institute in his hometown and, as was common for the sons of planters, attended South Carolina College. He graduated in 1849 and taught mathematics for two years at Mount Zion. After traveling to Europe in 1851, he returned home to marry Mattie Gaillard in 1852. Before her death in 1855, they had two children. Aiken married Virginia Carolina Smith in 1857; they had eleven children. The following year he purchased a plantation from the estate of Virginia’s father in Cokesbury, Abbeville District. As the proprietor of “Coronaca” plantation, he became involved in the agricultural reform movement and in states’ rights politics. He fervently believed that “agriculture climbs high in the scale of science: it develops thought, matures judgment, and requires for the execution, untiring energy, perseverance, and industry.” He was instrumental in the formation of the Abbeville Agricultural Society and was a member of its executive committee. In 1858 he attended the Southern Commercial Convention in Montgomery, Alabama, a meeting that quickly became a forum for disunionist politics....

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Aiken, George David (20 August 1892–19 November 1984), farmer and U.S. senator, was born in Dummerston, Vermont, the son of Edward W. Aiken and Myra Cook, farmers. He attended high school in Brattleboro. In 1914 he married Beatrice M. Howard; they had four children. His first wife died in 1966, and a year later Aiken married one of his Senate aides, Lola Pierotti....

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Aiken, William (28 January 1806–06 September 1887), planter and congressman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of William Aiken, Sr., an Irish immigrant, and Henrietta Wyatt. At the time of his death, the elder Aiken was president of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company and a wealthy merchant. Aiken attended the South Carolina College, from which he graduated in 1825. He then traveled to Europe. Upon returning to Charleston, he married Harriet Lowndes in 1831. They had one child....

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Akerman, Amos Tappan (23 February 1821–21 December 1880), attorney general of the United States, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the son of Benjamin Akerman (pronounced with a long A), a farmer and surveyor, and Olive Meloon. Despite straitened family circumstances, Akerman attended Phillips Exeter Academy and (with loans from friends and relatives) Dartmouth College, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1842. Having suffered lung damage as a boy while swimming, he was advised to move to a milder climate. This he did in 1842, accepting successive school teaching assignments in North Carolina and Georgia, culminating in 1846–1848 as tutor in the Savannah home of senator and former attorney general ...

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Albert, Carl (10 May 1908–04 February 2000), politician, was born Carl Bert Albert in McAlester, Oklahoma, the son of Ernest Homer Albert, a coal miner and farmer, and Leona Ann Scott Albert. He attended a two-room school and worked in cotton fields, where he sometimes carried a sack under one arm and a book under the other. At McAlester High School he excelled as a debater, became president of the student body, and graduated in 1927. That year, Albert entered the University of Oklahoma, where he majored in political science and excelled as a public speaker, winning the National Oratorical Championship in 1928. Albert, who had arrived in Norman with just $20, waited tables and did odd jobs to finance his undergraduate education. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1931, he studied on a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University, earning a B.A. in jurisprudence in 1933 and a B.C.L. a year later. He was admitted to the bar in Oklahoma in 1935 and practiced law in Oklahoma City....

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Albright, Horace Marden (06 January 1890–28 March 1987), park service director, was born in Bishop, California, the son of George Albright, a mining engineer, and Mary Marden. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1912 with a B.A. in economics. While a law student at Berkeley, Albright worked as a reader for Professor Adolph C. Miller. In 1913, when Secretary of the Interior ...

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James Lusk Alcorn. Photograph from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-111-B-1117).

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Alcorn, James Lusk (04 November 1816–20 December 1894), governor of Mississippi and U.S. senator, was born in Golconda, Illinois, the son of James Alcorn and Hannah (maiden name unknown). Soon after his birth, Alcorn’s family moved to Salem, Kentucky, where his father farmed and served as a boatman on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. In 1836 Alcorn briefly attended Cumberland College in Princeton, Kentucky. He tried teaching in Jackson, Arkansas, but soon returned to Livingston County, Kentucky, to serve as deputy sheriff under his uncle. Alcorn also studied law and in 1838 was admitted to the Kentucky bar. In the same year he married Mary Catherine Stewart; they had four children....

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Nelson W. Aldrich. Drawing by Arthur Dove, published in Success, 1909. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-54138).

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Aldrich, Nelson Wilmarth (06 November 1841–16 April 1915), U.S. senator, congressman, and businessman, was born in Foster, Rhode Island, the son of Anan Aldrich and Abby Burgess, farmers. Having received a modest education in East Killingly, Connecticut, and at the East Greenwich Academy in Rhode Island, Aldrich was by age seventeen working in Providence. Eventually a large wholesale grocery firm, Waldron, Wightman & Co., hired him as a clerk and bookkeeper. His career there was briefly interrupted in 1862 by service with the Tenth Rhode Island Volunteers garrisoning Washington, D.C. After contracting typhoid that same year he returned to Providence and, by 1866, had been elevated to junior partner at Waldron, Wightman. He married Abby Chapman that year; the couple would have eleven children. His wife was of independent means, but Aldrich insisted on accumulating a fortune on his own account and gradually did so. He worked his way up to full partner at Waldron, Wightman, was a director of the Roger Williams Bank by 1872, and by 1877 was president of Providence’s First National Bank. He also headed the city’s Board of Trade in these years....

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Alexander, De Alva Stanwood (17 July 1845–30 January 1925), congressman and historian, was born in Richmond, Maine, the son of Stanwood Alexander and Priscilla Brown. When his father died in 1852, Alexander and his mother moved to Ohio, where he lived until his enlistment, at the age of sixteen, in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. After the war he completed his education at the Edward Little Institute in Auburn, Maine, and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1870. He later served for several years on Bowdoin’s board of overseers. In 1871 he married Alice Colby; their childless union ended with her death in 1890....

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Alexander, Will Winton (15 July 1884–13 January 1956), leading southern liberal, expert on race relations, and member of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal administration, leading southern liberal, expert on race relations, and member of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal administration, was born near Morrisville, Missouri, the son of William Baxter Alexander, a farmer, and Arabella A. Winton, a schoolteacher. Alexander received a B.A. from Scarritt-Morrisville College in 1908 and continued his studies at Vanderbilt University, where he received a Bachelor of Divinity in 1912. Ordained a Methodist minister in 1911, Alexander held pastorates at Nashville (1911–1916) and Murfreesboro, Tennessee (1916–1917). In 1914 he married Mabelle A. Kinkead; they had three sons....

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Allen, Elisha Hunt (28 January 1804–01 January 1883), congressman and diplomat, was born in New Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Clesson Allen, a lawyer and later a congressman, and Mary Hunt. He graduated with honors from Williams College in 1823, studied law in his father’s office, was admitted to the bar in 1825, and worked as an attorney for two years in Brattleboro, Vermont. In 1828 he married Sarah E. Fessenden; they had four children. That same year he moved to Bangor, Maine, where he formed a law partnership with ...