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Corcoran, Thomas Gardiner (29 December 1900–06 December 1981), government official and presidential adviser, was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, into an affluent, teetotaling, self-consciously “lace-curtain” Irish family. His father, Patrick, was a Democrat who served briefly in the Rhode Island legislature; his mother, Mary O’Keefe, was from a prosperous Republican family that looked with some contempt on the “cheap” political activities of the “damned Shanty Irish.” In his youth, at least, Corcoran shared something of his mother’s distaste for “politicians,” if not for politics, and ultimately he brought to his own public career a conviction that, while elected officials were necessary, the best sources of public wisdom were intelligent, highly educated administrators like (he chose to believe) himself....

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Harry L. Hopkins. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102021).

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Hopkins, Harry Lloyd (17 August 1890–29 January 1946), New Deal administrator and presidential adviser, was born in Sioux City, Iowa, the son of David Aldona Hopkins, a salesman and merchant, and Anna Picket. Hopkins grew up in modest circumstances. The family moved frequently during his youth and in 1901 settled in Grinnell, Iowa. He attended Grinnell College, where he was instilled with social ideals and Progressive political values of honest government, public service by experts, and aid to the “deserving” poor. After graduating in 1912 he entered social work in New York City. The next year he married Ethel Gross, a social worker. They had three sons. A daughter died in infancy....

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Komer, Robert William (23 Feb. 1922–9 Apr. 2000), national security strategist, federal government official, and presidential advisor, was born in Chicago but raised in Clayton, Missouri. He was the first of two children born to Nathan Adolph and Stella Deiches Komer. His father was president of a small manufacturing firm, Lockwoven Company, which specialized in burial garments and funeral supplies. As a child, Komer was precocious. Completing Clayton High School at sixteen, he entered Harvard after two years at Washington University in St. Louis. He was an outstanding student, graduating in ...

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Walker, Frank Comerford (30 May 1886–13 September 1959), politician, postmaster general, and businessman, was born in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, the son of David Walker, an independent copper mine operator, and Ellen Comerford. When Walker was three years old the family moved to Butte, Montana, then a center of mining activities and Irish-American life in the West. Young Frank was affected deeply by his mother’s religious faith, and he remained a devout Catholic all of his life. He was educated in local parochial schools, attended Gonzaga University, and earned his law degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1909....

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Warburg, James Paul (18 August 1896–03 June 1969), financier, government official and presidential confidant, and political writer, was born in Hamburg, Germany, the son of Paul Moritz Warburg, a banker, and Nina Jenny Loeb. James Warburg was settled with his family in the United States in 1901 and naturalized in 1911 along with his eminent father, a brilliant financier. If Paul Warburg embodied the classic reserve and discipline of the fin de siècle German-Jewish elite, the rebellious and impetuous James seemed equally and defiantly proud of the free-wheeling American style that would be his trademark. A brilliant student, James attended private elementary schools in New York City, the Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, and Harvard, where he finished his B.A. in three years, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1916....