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Ashe, Arthur (10 July 1943–06 February 1993), tennis player, author, and political activist, was born Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr., in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Arthur Ashe, Sr., a police officer, and Mattie Cunningham. Tall and slim as a young boy, Ashe was forbidden by his father from playing football; he took up tennis instead on the segregated playground courts at Brookfield Park, near his home. By the time he was ten he came under the tutelage of a local tennis fan and physician from Lynchburg, Walter Johnson. Johnson had previously nurtured Althea Gibson, who would become the first African American to win Wimbeldon, in 1957 and 1958, and his second protégé would prove no less successful....

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Faulk, John Henry (21 August 1913–09 April 1990), humorist, liberal political activist, and writer, was born in Austin, Texas, the son of Judge Henry Faulk, a successful trial lawyer, and Martha Miner. His father embraced a series of leftist causes, supporting Eugene Debs...

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Gill, Brendan (04 October 1914–27 December 1997), writer and preservationist, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Michael Gill, a physician, and Elizabeth Duffy Gill. (His parents did not give him a middle name, but he later took the middle name “Michael” in honor of his father.) Although his mother died when he was seven years old, he later recalled that he had a happy childhood in a prosperous Irish-Catholic household: “My father … had not the slightest idea what to do with us children, except to supply us with houses, servants, money, trips to Europe, extravagant gifts, admiration, and love” ( ...

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Graydon, Alexander (10 April 1752–02 May 1818), author and public official, was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania, the son of Alexander Graydon, who had emigrated from Ireland in 1730 and become a Philadelphia merchant and lawyer, and his second wife, Rachel Marks. When her husband died in 1761, Rachel Graydon and her children moved from the family home in Bristol to Philadelphia, where to augment her slender means she took in boarders. Young Alexander dropped out of the College and Academy of Philadelphia at age fourteen to read law with an uncle but seems equally to have been studying his mother’s boarders, among whom were sophisticated British officers and theater people. His somewhat reckless social life (recalled with evident pleasure in his ...

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Grayson, William John (12 November 1788–04 October 1863), politician and author, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of William John Grayson, a sheriff of the Beaufort District, and Susannah Greene. His father, who had been an officer during the American Revolution, died in 1797 at the age of thirty-seven; eleven months later Susannah Grayson married William Joyner, a widower and wealthy planter of the Beaufort District. Young Grayson early developed an insatiable desire for learning. From 1801 to 1803 he attended private academies in the North in preparation for admission to either Yale or Harvard. Accustomed to the gentility and hospitality of the South, he chose instead the new South Carolina College (now University of South Carolina)....

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Holbrook, James (1812–28 April 1864), postal official and journalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of unknown parents. Holbrook grew up in Boston, where he was apprenticed to a printer. In 1833, he moved to Connecticut, where he worked as a newspaper editor and in that year married Mary Baker Tyler. He and Tyler had four children. He edited the ...

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Pember, Phoebe Yates Levy (18 August 1823–04 March 1913), hospital administrator and writer, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of Jacob Levy, a businessman, and Fanny Yates. Pember was the fourth of seven children in a prosperous Jewish family. Nothing is known of her schooling, although she was evidently well educated and widely read. Sometime in the 1850s, the family moved to Savannah, Georgia; sometime before the Civil War, Phoebe married Thomas Pember of Boston. After her husband died of tuberculosis in July 1861 in Aiken, South Carolina, the childless Pember returned to her parents in Savannah. Dangers associated with the Civil War led the family to seek refuge in Marietta, Georgia, around 1862....

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Roerich, Nicholas (09 October 1874–13 December 1947), artist, author, humanitarian, was born Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich in St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of Konstantin Roerich, a lawyer and notary, and Maria Kalashnikova Roerich. He was raised in the comfortable environment of an upper-middle-class Russian family and enjoyed contact with the writers, artists, and scientists who often came to visit. At an early age he showed a curiosity and talent for archeology, paleontology, botany, and geology. The young Roerich also showed a particular aptitude for drawing, and at the age of sixteen he began to think about pursuing a career as an artist. In 1893, to satisfy his father, who did not consider painting to be a fit vocation for a responsible member of society, Nicholas enrolled in both the Academy of Art and St. Petersburg University, where he studied law....

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Wolcott, Roger (04 January 1679–17 May 1767), colonial governor and literary figure, was born in Windsor, Connecticut, the son of Simon Wolcott and Martha Pitkin, merchants and farmers. The youngest of nine children, Wolcott was educated at home by his mother, then apprenticed to a clothing shop in 1694. He established his own clothier enterprise at age twenty. In 1702 he married Sarah Drake. They had fifteen children before her death on 21 January 1748. Wolcott purchased a large estate in Windsor in 1702 where, following the eighteenth-century pattern of Hartford-area merchant-farmers, he established both a clothing manufactory and a farm....