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Biddle, Francis Beverley (09 May 1886–04 October 1968), lawyer, judge, and U.S. attorney general, was born in Paris, France, the son of Algernon Sydney Biddle, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Frances Robinson. Biddle attended Haverford Academy (1895–1899); Groton Academy (1899–1905), where he excelled at boxing and gymnastics; and Harvard University, from which he graduated with a B.A. cum laude in 1909 and an LL.B. in 1911. His first job upon graduating was as personal secretary to Associate Justice ...

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Black, Jeremiah Sullivan (10 January 1810–19 August 1883), U.S. attorney general, U.S. secretary of state, and attorney, was born near Stony Creek, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Black, a judge and legislator, and Mary Sullivan. Black read law under Chauncey Forward in Somerset, Pennsylvania, passing his bar examination at age twenty. When Forward was elected to Congress in 1830, he left Black in charge of his office, and the young attorney assumed responsibilities far beyond his experience. Black’s practice in Forward’s office became more secure when in 1836 he married Forward’s daughter Mary Forward. They had five children. In 1843 Black was baptized into his father-in-law’s faith, the Disciples of Christ church, and developed a close personal friendship with its founder ...

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Homer Cummings. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90035).

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Cummings, Homer Stillé (30 April 1870–10 September 1956), attorney, Democratic party leader, and attorney general of the United States, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Uriah C. Cummings, a businessman, and Audie Schuyler Stillé. Educated at the Heathcote School in upstate New York, the Sheffield School of Engineering of Yale University, and the Yale Law School, from which he graduated in 1893, Cummings opened a legal practice in Stamford, Connecticut, soon thereafter and formed a partnership with Charles D. Lockwood that lasted until he joined the ...

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Hoar, Ebenezer Rockwood (21 February 1816–31 January 1895), judge and attorney general, was born in Concord, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Hoar, a lawyer and congressman, and Sarah Sherman. Hoar was a mischievous and precocious lad whose scholarship was enhanced by keeping up with his older sister Elizabeth. Although he was ready to enter college at fourteen, his father suggested that he work on a farm for a year. During his first day’s work, Hoar (who was nearsighted) stepped on a scythe and permanently injured his foot, but he was able to participate in the interclass mayhem known as football when he entered Harvard in 1831. After graduating third in the class of 1835, Hoar taught Latin to young girls for a year in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Returning home, he read law under his father’s tutelage, entered Harvard Law School in 1837, received his LL.B. in 1839, and on 30 September of that year was admitted to the Massachusetts bar. Hoar began to practice in Concord, where he married Caroline Downes Brooks in 1840; they had seven children....

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Reverdy Johnson. Photograph from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-111-B-1197).

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Johnson, Reverdy (21 May 1796–10 February 1876), lawyer, U.S. attorney general, and U.S. senator, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of John Johnson, a lawyer and Maryland legislator, and Deborah Ghieselen. A member of a distinguished Maryland legal family (John Johnson served as a judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, chancellor, and attorney general), Johnson was educated at St. John’s College in Annapolis. After graduating in 1811 and serving briefly as a private in the War of 1812, he began his legal training under his father and entered the bar in 1816. He established his law practice in Baltimore in 1817 and remained active in the Baltimore bar for the next sixty years. He married Mary Mackall Bowie in 1819, with whom he had fifteen children....

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Robert F. Kennedy. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ61-1866).

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Robert F. Kennedy Speaking at the University of Mississippi, 1966. Courtesy of Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111226).

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Kennedy, Robert Francis (20 November 1925–06 June 1968), politician, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, a capitalist, and Rose Fitzgerald. His father Joseph made a fortune in the stock market and through other investments and served from 1938 to 1940 as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. The seventh of nine children, Robert, known as “Bobby,” graduated from Milton Academy in 1943. In March 1944 he enrolled in the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, leaving it in February 1946 to become an apprentice seaman aboard the destroyer USS ...

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Lee, Charles ( July 1758–24 June 1815), lawyer and U.S. attorney general, was born at “Leesylvania,” in Prince William County, Virginia, the son of planter, burgess, and revolutionary politician Henry Lee (1727–1787) and Lucy Grymes. A younger brother of Henry (“Light-Horse Harry”) Lee (1756–1818), Charles Lee followed in his sibling’s footsteps and attended Princeton College (then called the College of New Jersey), where he graduated with honors in 1775. Somewhat aimless after graduation, he read law in Philadelphia in 1779; the next year he briefly held the post of secretary to the Board of Treasury. Lee was licensed to practice law at the Virginia bar in 1781 and commenced his profession in the local county courts of northern Virginia. Following the Revolution he expanded his practice into the General Court of Virginia and qualified before the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in 1785. During this period Lee gathered brief reports of cases decided by the judges of the superior courts, though his reports were not published until the twentieth century....

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Hugh Swinton Legaré. Engraving by Thomas Doney. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117807).

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Legaré, Hugh Swinton (02 January 1797–20 June 1843), jurist and attorney general of the United States, was born on John’s Island, South Carolina, the son of Solomon Legaré, a planter, and Mary Splatt Swinton. Legaré’s father died when Legaré was two years old. Fortunately his paternal grandfather, a South Carolina planter of Huguenot heritage, provided Legaré’s mother with the means for his upbringing. Legaré’s life was marked by many medical maladies, the first of which was an injurious childhood smallpox inoculation that not only left him scarred but also led, it seems, to a disproportionate shortness of his limbs. Nevertheless, he was a precocious child and in 1814 graduated first in his class from South Carolina College in Columbia, where he received a thoroughly classical education....

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McGranery, James Patrick (08 July 1895–23 December 1962), congressman, federal judge, and U.S. attorney general, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Irish immigrants Patrick McGranery and Bridget Gallagher. McGranery attended Catholic parochial schools in Philadelphia, but he left before completing his secondary education to work as an electrotyper for the Curtis Publishing Co. While there, he became a member of the city’s electrotypers union and carried the union card most of his life. In 1917 he joined the U.S. Army and served in the First World War as a balloon observation pilot and later as an adjutant of the 111th Infantry. After being demobilized in 1919, he returned to Philadelphia and school. He received a law degree from Temple University Law School in 1928 and was subsequently admitted to the Pennsylvania bar. His clientele included police and the firemen’s union....

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Mitchell, John Newton (15 September 1913–09 November 1988), lawyer and U.S. attorney general, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Joseph C. Mitchell and Margaret McMahon. He was raised in Blue Point and Patchogue, Long Island, and Queens, New York. An outstanding student and top athlete, Mitchell attended Jamaica High School and graduated from Fordham Law School in 1938. In the same year he joined the New York City law firm of Caldwell & Raymond, where he specialized in municipal and state bond financing. During World War II Mitchell served as a naval officer, winning a Silver Star. After returning from the war, he resumed his law practice. In 1957 he divorced his first wife and married the outspoken Martha Beall Jennings ( ...

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Olney, Richard (15 September 1835–08 April 1917), lawyer, U.S. attorney general, and secretary of state, was born in Oxford, Massachusetts, the son of Wilson Olney and Eliza Butler. His paternal grandfather, also named Richard, was prominent in the small community, having founded the town’s first textile mill and bank. A dominating personality, Olney’s grandfather largely controlled the lives of his children even as adults, except for those who broke with him. Wilson Olney remained subservient, working in his father’s counting house and later clerking in the Oxford Bank. Young Richard’s personality more closely resembled his grandfather’s and that of his ambitious and driving mother rather than his father’s....

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Stanbery, Henry (20 February 1803–26 June 1881), lawyer and politician, was born in New York City, the son of Jonas Stanbery, a physician, and Ann Lucy Seaman. When Stanbery was eleven, he and his family moved to Zanesville, Ohio. In 1815 he matriculated at Washington College in Pennsylvania. Graduating in 1819, he decided to pursue a career in law and began studying under Ebenezer Granger of Zanesville. When Granger died, Stanbery continued his studies under the direction of attorney Charles B. Goddard. When he reached the age of majority in 1824, Stanbery was admitted to the Ohio bar and began a distinguished legal career that commenced in a partnership with the illustrious ...

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Taft, Alphonso (05 November 1810–21 May 1891), judge, U.S. attorney general, and diplomat, was born in Townshend, Vermont, the son of Peter Rawson Taft, a farmer and lawyer, and Sylvia Howard. Taft was educated at county schools until he was sixteen. He then taught high school in order to attend Amherst Academy. He received a bachelor’s degree from Yale College in 1833, graduating third in his class, and after several more years of teaching high school he returned to Yale Law School. He received a J.D. in 1838 and was admitted that year to the bar of Connecticut....

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Roger B. Taney. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107588).

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Taney, Roger Brooke (17 March 1777–12 October 1864), lawyer, politician, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Calvert County, Maryland, the son of Michael Taney, a planter and politician, and Monica Brooke. The Taneys had been slaveholding planters since the first Taney arrived in Maryland in the 1660s, and at the time of Roger’s birth the family ranked among the most prestigious in the county. Originally Anglican, the Taneys had abandoned the English church for Catholicism well before the birth of Michael Taney, possibly in imitation of leading Maryland families....