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Raymond Pace Alexander At his desk in his law office, circa 1935-1940. Collections of the University of Pennsylvania Archives.

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Alexander, Raymond Pace (13 October 1898–24 November 1974), lawyer, judge, and civil rights leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the third son of Hillard Boone and Virginia Pace Alexander, both slaves in Virginia who were freed in 1865 and migrated to Philadelphia in 1880. His background was working-class poor and he grew up in Philadelphia's seventh ward, an all-black community made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal study ...

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Alston, Melvin Ovenus (07 October 1911–30 December 1985), educator, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. Of middle-class background in terms of an African-American family in the urban South in the 1920s, he grew up in a house that his family owned, free of any mortgage. After attending Norfolk’s segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated from Virginia State College (B.S., 1935), honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship, and began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School in 1935. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men’s Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church....

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Baker, Harvey Humphrey (11 April 1869–10 April 1915), juvenile court judge, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of James Baker, a merchant, and Harriet M. Humphrey. The child of a prosperous New England family with deep roots in the region, Baker did his college preparatory work at the Roxbury Latin School before entering Harvard University, where his scholarship earned him an A.B. in political science with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1891. In college he worked as a friendly visitor for the Boston Children’s Aid Society and continued to do so while attending Harvard Law School. He received his law degree and a master’s in 1894, commenced the practice of law, and shortly thereafter began a lifelong connection with the Brookline law firm (later known as) Hayes, Williams, Baker & Hersey. Baker spent his first year clerking in the township’s police court and then served as a special justice from 1895 until 1906, when Massachusetts governor Curtis Guild selected him to become the first judge of the newly created Boston juvenile court....

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Birney, James Gillespie (04 February 1792–18 November 1857), lawyer and reformer, was born near Danville, Kentucky, the son of James Birney and Martha Reed (both of Irish extraction), owners of a prosperous plantation worked by slave labor. When James was three, his mother died, leaving him and an infant sister to be raised by a widowed aunt who came from Ireland. His aunt’s opposition to slavery was one of the early influences on James’s thinking, although he became a slave master himself at age six when he was given a slave his own age, Michael, as a birthday present. Michael remained with him until Birney’s mid-life conversion to the abolitionist cause; he was then freed, given back wages for his years of service, and set up in a livery stable business. When James was seven his father and grandfather Reed both backed an unsuccessful attempt to write an emancipation clause into the state constitution....

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Blackwell, Randolph Talmadge (10 March 1927–21 May 1981), attorney, educator, and civil rights activist, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Joe Blackwell and Blanche Mary Donnell. He attended the city’s public schools for African-American youth and earned a B.S. in sociology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro in 1949. Four years later Blackwell earned a J.D. degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In December 1954 he married Elizabeth Knox. The couple had one child. After teaching economics for a year at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama, near Huntsville, Blackwell became an associate professor of social sciences at Winston-Salem State Teachers College in North Carolina....

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Boudinot, Elias Cornelius (01 August 1835–27 September 1890), Cherokee lawyer and progressive, was born in New Echota, Georgia, the son of Elias Boudinot, tribal leader and editor of the newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, and Harriet Gold, daughter of a prominent New England family. His mother died a year after his birth....

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Burlingham, Charles Culp (31 August 1858–06 June 1959), attorney, civic leader, and social and political reformer, was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, the son of the Reverend Aaron Hale Burlingham, a Baptist minister, and Emma Starr. Reverend Burlingham was a minister in New York City. C. C. B., as he was known by friends, lived in France for a time, after his father became minister of the American Chapel in Paris in 1863. In 1866 the family returned to the United States, and Charles’s father accepted a position as a pastor in St. Louis, Missouri, where Charles lived until he enrolled in Harvard University in 1875. He graduated in 1879 with an A.B. He then entered Columbia Law School, from which he received an LL.B. in 1881, the same year he was admitted to the New York bar. Two years later he married Louisa W. Lawrence; they had two sons and a daughter....

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Chafee, Zechariah, Jr. (07 December 1885–08 February 1957), professor of law and civil libertarian, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Zechariah Chafee, an industrialist, and Mary Dexter Sharpe. For generations his father’s family owned and ran the Builders Iron Foundry, and his mother’s family owned the Brown and Sharpe Manufacturing Company. Chafee attended Brown University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1907. For three years he worked at the family foundry but discovered that he was temperamentally unsuited to the life of an industrialist. He entered Harvard Law School in 1910 and again showed intellectual prowess by graduating at the top of his class in 1913. In 1912 he married Bess Frank Searle; they had four children. Chafee practiced at a law firm in Providence until 1916 when he joined the Harvard Law School faculty, where he would remain until his retirement in 1956. He was made a full professor in 1919, eventually occupied the prestigious Langdell Chair, and became a University Professor in 1950....

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Cassius Marcellus Clay. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109862).

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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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Cohen, Felix Solomon (03 July 1907–19 October 1953), lawyer, was born in New York City, the son of Morris Cohen, an academic and philosopher, and Mary Ryshpan, a former teacher. Cohen attended Townsend Harris High School, which conducted a joint program with City College. After graduating magna cum laude from City College, he earned his M.A. in philosophy from Harvard in 1927. Cohen entered Columbia Law School in 1928, completed his Ph.D. comprehensive exams at Harvard and received his doctorate in 1929, and received his LL.B. from Columbia in 1931. That year he accepted a position as research assistant for a judge on the New York Supreme Court and married Lucy M. Kramer. They had two children....

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Coulter, Ernest Kent (14 November 1871–01 May 1952), reformer and lawyer, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of James Hervey Coulter and Emily J. Erwin. His parents’ exact occupations are not known, although a biographical listing shows his father as Dr. Coulter. After attending local schools, Coulter graduated from Ohio State University in 1893. He worked briefly as tri-state editor for the ...

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Crosby, Ernest Howard (04 November 1856–03 January 1907), attorney, social reformer, and writer, was born in New York City, the son of Howard Crosby and Margaret Evertson Givan. His father was the pastor of the prestigious Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church from 1863 to 1891, chancellor of New York University, founder of the city’s Society for the Prevention of Crime, and a critic of the labor movement and single tax reform. Crosby was educated at Mohegan Lake School in Westchester County and at New York University, from which he graduated with first honors in his class of 1876. Two years later Crosby graduated with honors from Columbia University’s law school and was admitted to the bar. He practiced law for ten years and became a major in the National Guard. In 1881 Crosby married Fanny Kendall Schieffelin, the daughter of a wealthy New York importer. They became the parents of two children....

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Dargan, Edmund S. (15 April 1805–24 November 1879), legislator and judge, was born near Wadesboro, in Montgomery County, North Carolina, the son of a Baptist minister, whose given name is unknown, and a woman whose maiden name was Lilly. Dargan’s full middle name is listed in a number of sources as either Strother or Spawn. His father died when Dargan was very young. There was no adequate estate, and to earn a livelihood he became an agricultural laborer. Dargan was a self-educated young man who studied the law in typical nineteenth-century fashion, in the law office of a local practitioner in Wadesboro. After a year of study he was admitted in 1829 to the North Carolina bar. The following year he walked to Alabama, where he settled in Washington in Autauga County. He was admitted to the Alabama bar and served as a justice of the peace in Autauga County for a number of years....

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DeSilver, Albert (03 August 1888–07 December 1924), civil liberties leader and lawyer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Carll Harrison DeSilver, a stockbroker and art patron, and Mary Henrietta Block. He attended private schools in Brooklyn and Connecticut and was graduated in 1910 from Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones and the editorial board of the ...

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Doster, Frank (19 January 1847–25 February 1933), jurist and reform advocate, was born in Morgan County, Virginia (now W.Va.), the son of Alfred Doster and Rachel Doyle, farmers. The family moved to Clinton County, Indiana, in 1848. In early 1864, while still a teenager, Doster joined the Eleventh Indiana Cavalry in the Civil War, seeing much action in Tennessee and Mississippi. After the war, his regiment patrolled the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas in 1865. Mustered out as a corporal in the fall of that year, he returned to Indiana, where he studied at Thornton Academy and attended, but did not graduate from, Benton Law Institute and the state university. In 1870 he moved to Monticello, Illinois, was admitted to the state bar, and married Caroline Riddle. They had seven children, five of whom survived to adulthood....

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Durham, John Stephens (18 July 1861–16 October 1919), diplomat, lawyer, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Durham and Elizabeth Stephens. Two of his uncles, Clayton Durham and Jeremiah Durham, were noted clergymen who helped Bishop Richard Allen establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. A mulatto, Durham studied in the Philadelphia public schools, graduating from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1876....

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Earle, Thomas ( April 1796–15 July 1849), lawyer and reformer, was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, the son of Pliny Earle, a manufacturer of machinery for textile factories, and Patience Buffum. Earle studied in the public schools and at the Leicester Academy. After he left school he worked briefly for a family business in nearby Worcester and in 1817 moved to Philadelphia. He worked as a commission merchant until 1824, when the company that he worked for failed. Earle then read law with ...

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Medgar Evers. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109400).