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Copley, Ira Clifton (25 October 1864–02 November 1947), newspaper publisher, congressman, public utilities executive, and philanthropist, was born in Copley Township, Knox County, Illinois, the son of Ira Birdsall Copley and Ellen Madeline Whiting, farmers. When Copley was two he was struck with scarlet fever, which left him blind. When he was three, the family moved to Aurora, Illinois, where he received treatment for his eyes. Even with the care of an eye specialist, his complete blindness lasted five years. With the move to Aurora, his father and his mother’s brother assumed ownership of the Aurora Illinois Gas Light Company, the beginning of a large utility company that Ira would one day manage....

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Joshua Reed Giddings. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-61335).

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Giddings, Joshua Reed (06 October 1795–27 May 1864), antislavery congressman, was born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, the son of Joshua Giddings and Elizabeth Pease, farmers. At the age of ten he moved with his parents to Ashtabula County in Ohio’s Western Reserve, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1819 he married Laura Waters, with whom he had seven children, two of whom died in infancy. Lacking virtually all formal education, Giddings nonetheless studied law with Elisha Whittlesey, later a U.S. representative, and established a successful practice. After losing his considerable investments in western lands in the panic of 1837 and becoming estranged from his former law partner, future U.S. Senator ...

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Lovejoy, Owen (06 January 1811–25 March 1864), congressman and Congregational minister, was born in Albion, Maine, the son of Rev. Daniel Lovejoy, a Presbyterian minister, and Elizabeth Pattee. One of eight children of highly religious parents, Lovejoy entered Bowdoin College in 1830 but left in 1833 following the death of his father. He taught school to support himself in college and studied law. In 1836, having already become a convert to abolitionism, apparently influenced by ...

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Lowenstein, Allard Kenneth (16 January 1929–14 March 1980), lawyer, congressman, and political agitator, was born Allard Augustus Lowenstein in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Gabriel Abraham Lowenstein, a medical school teacher who turned restaurateur, and Augusta Goldberg. Lowenstein later chose Kenneth to replace Augustus, his given middle name. Only a year old when his mother died he was not told at first that his stepmother was not his birth mother, which he discovered when he was thirteen. In 1945 Lowenstein graduated from Horace Mann School in New York City and four years later graduated from the University of North Carolina. At North Carolina he succeeded in ending the practice of pairing Jewish students as roommates and gained them access to campus fraternities, and when the student state legislature met in Chapel Hill in December 1945 he got a resolution passed opening it up to black participation. Becoming a powerful personality on campus, Lowenstein found a hero and friend in the school’s president, ...

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Mercer, Charles Fenton (16 June 1778–04 May 1858), U.S. congressman and colonizationist, was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the son of James Mercer, a jurist and planter, and Eleanor Dick. Fenton was raised at “Marlborough,” his grandfather’s extensive plantation on the Rappahannock River. Slaves performed all work on the estate, which reinforced the child’s perception that he held a privileged position in society. Although Mercer later came to loathe slavery in the abstract, a small number of slaves worked his farm and acted as servants throughout his long life....

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Owen, Robert Dale (09 November 1801–24 June 1877), reformer and congressman, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of Robert Owen, an industrialist and social reformer, and Ann Caroline Dale. Owen’s early life was spent in New Lanark, Scotland, where his father managed the textile mills of his maternal grandfather. At the age of thirteen he toured factories that employed child laborers and from eighteen to twenty-two attended a progressive school in Hofwyl, Switzerland. These experiences stirred in him an early interest in social reform and confirmed for him his father’s conviction that education offered the potential for overcoming social divisions that were based on class, economic status, and gender. He returned to New Lanark to help teach workers’ children and to write ...

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John Phillips Saylor. Courtesy of Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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Saylor, John Phillips (23 July 1908–28 October 1973), conservationist, was born on a farm near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the son of Tillman Saylor, an attorney, and Minerva Phillips Saylor, a former schoolteacher. After graduating from Johnstown High School at age sixteen Saylor attended Mercersburg Academy in south central Pennsylvania, a college preparatory school for boys. He struggled academically but nonetheless was accepted at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After graduating in 1928, he went on to law school at the University of Michigan but left that program to attend Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, from 1930 to 1933. On graduation, he joined his father's law firm and in 1937 married Johnstown schoolteacher Grace Doerstler. They had two children. In 1942 Saylor joined the navy. He served as a communications officer aboard the U.S.S. ...

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Mo Udall. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Udall, Morris K. (15 June 1922–12 December 1998), congressman, environmental leader, and presidential candidate, nicknamed "Mo", congressman, environmental leader, and presidential candidate, nicknamed “Mo,” was born Morris King Udall in St. Johns, Arizona, the son of Levi S. Udall, a Mormon leader and later chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, and Louise Lee Udall. He was the fourth of six children. At age six, he lost his right eye while playing with a knife. His handicap proved to be hardly an obstacle as he became a star athlete, editor of the school paper, and student body president. Udall attended the University of Arizona in Tucson from 1941 to 1942 but left to enter the U.S. Army in World War II, rising to captain in the Army Air Forces. He commanded an all-black squadron while based in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Returning to the university in 1946, he pursued a law degree and earned honors as an all-Border Conference basketball player. He played professional basketball for the Denver Nuggets in the 1947–1948 season. In 1949 he married Patricia J. Emery; they would have six children and divorce in 1966....

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Udall, Stewart Lee (31 January 1920–20 March 2010), member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of the Interior, was born in St. Johns, Arizona, a town his Mormon forebears helped to settle. One of six children, he grew up in middle-class comfort. His father, Levi Stewart Udall, a lawyer and Arizona State Supreme Court justice, stressed the importance of public service. His mother, Louise Lee Udall, instilled in him a love for music and poetry. His commitment to earth stewardship derived in part from his upbringing in the open country of northeastern Arizona....