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Adams, Sherman Llewelyn (08 January 1899–27 October 1986), public servant, was born in East Dover, Vermont, the son of Clyde H. Adams, a grocer, and Winnie Marion Sherman. Through his father he was descended from a collateral branch of the famous Quincy Adams clan. In 1901 the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island, but Adams’s parents divorced soon thereafter. In 1916 Adams enrolled at Dartmouth College. His academic record there was solid, but he was best remembered for the gusto with which he threw himself into extracurricular activities. For Adams, physical fitness was practically a religion....

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Allen, Henry Justin (11 September 1869–17 January 1950), politician and newspaper editor, was born in Pittsfield, Pennsylvania, the son of John Allen, a farmer, and Rebecca Goodwin. In 1870 the Allens settled on a farm in Clay County, Kansas, which they lost in 1879. The family relocated in Osage County, Kansas, where Allen graduated from Burlingame High School. Working as a barber to attend Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, he excelled at forensics, which led to his first newspaper job and forecast his later stature as one of America’s most popular public speakers. While at Baker, he met Elsie Jane Nuzman, and they were married in 1892. Only one of their four children survived to adulthood....

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Baker, Edward Dickinson (24 February 1811–21 October 1861), statesman and soldier, was born in London, England, the son of Edward Baker, an educator, and Lucy Dickinson. The family emigrated to the United States in 1815 and lived in Philadelphia for about ten years. The elder Baker ran a school that young Edward attended until he secured employment as a hand loom weaver. Attracted by ...

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Barbour, James (10 June 1775–07 June 1842), planter and politician, was born in Orange County, Virginia, the son of Thomas Barbour, a wealthy planter, and Mary Pendleton Thomas. Because his family suffered financial reverses during the Revolution, Barbour did not receive a college education. After preparatory study in rhetoric and the classics at a local academy, he apprenticed himself to a Richmond lawyer. In 1793, when he was only eighteen years old, he was admitted to the Virginia bar and began practicing law in Orange and neighboring counties. Two years later he married Lucy Johnson, daughter of a prominent local planter. They established a country seat at “Barboursville,” near Montpelier, where they raised five children....

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Bates, Edward (04 September 1793–25 March 1869), political leader and attorney general of the United States, was born in Goochland County, Virginia, the son of Thomas Fleming Bates, a planter and merchant, and Caroline Matilda Woodson. A Quaker, Thomas Bates was read out of meeting when he enlisted to fight in the Revolution, from which he emerged deeply in debt. Edward nevertheless grew up surrounded by slaves. After his father died in 1805, Edward received a good education at the home of his cousin Benjamin Bates in Hanover, Maryland, and then at Charlotte Hall Academy in St. Marys County, Maryland....

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Bell, John (18 February 1796–10 September 1869), politician, was born in Mill Creek, Davidson County, Tennessee, the son of Samuel Bell, a farmer and blacksmith, and Margaret Edmiston. Young Bell graduated from Cumberland College in Nashville in 1814 and within two years began to practice law. In 1817 he was elected to represent Williamson County in the state senate. Before again pursuing public office, Bell relocated in Nashville, the state capital, where he became a prominent attorney....

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Bingham, John Armor (21 January 1815–15 March 1900), lawyer and politician, was born in Mercer, Pennsylvania, the son of Hugh Bingham, a carpenter, and Ester Bailey. His father was active in local politics, holding several offices including clerk of courts. After his mother’s death in 1827, John went to Cadiz, Ohio, to live with his uncle Thomas Bingham. He returned to Mercer in 1831 and served two years as an apprentice to an anti-Masonic newspaper. He was a full-time student at Mercer Academy from 1834 to 1835 and enrolled in the antislavery Franklin College in New Athens, Ohio, in 1835. Though some sources suggest that an unspecified illness prevented Bingham from completing his course of study, he appears to have only missed the graduation ceremony. He moved back to Mercer in 1837 and studied law under two prominent local attorneys, John J. Pearson and William Stewart. Bingham was admitted to the practice of law in Pennsylvania and Ohio in 1840. He returned to Cadiz that same year campaigning on behalf of ...

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Blair, Francis Preston, Jr. (19 February 1821–09 July 1875), statesman and Union army officer, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of Francis Preston Blair, the influential editor of the Congressional Globe, and Eliza Violet Gist Blair. He was a brother of Montgomery Blair...

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Bonaparte, Charles Joseph (09 June 1851–28 June 1921), lawyer and politician, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Jerome Bonaparte, a wealthy property owner, and Susan Mary Williams. His grandfather, Jerome Bonaparte, was Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, and his grandmother, Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte...

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Bradstreet, Simon (Feb. or Mar. 1604–27 March 1697), colonial statesman and governor of Massachusetts, was born in Horbling, Lincolnshire, England, and was baptized on 18 March 1604, the son of Simon Bradstreet, vicar of Horbling, and Margaret (maiden name unknown). In 1617 he entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge (of which his father had been a fellow), and received the degrees of B.A. in 1620 and M.A. in 1624. Between 1621 and 1624 he served as assistant to ...

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Brandegee, Frank Bosworth (08 July 1864–14 October 1924), lawyer and politician, was born in New London, Connecticut, the son of Augustus Brandegee, a lawyer, and Nancy Christian Bosworth. Brandegee grew up in an aristocratic family and followed closely in the footsteps of his father. Both men graduated Yale University, practiced law, and entered first state and later national politics as members of the Republican party. Brandegee received a B.A. from Yale in 1885, traveled a year in Europe, and was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1888. At that time he joined the firm of Brandegee, Noyes & Brandegee. From 1889 to 1902, with the exception of two years, he served as corporation counsel of New London and also as U.S. attorney for his district for a time. Elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1888, he was elected again in 1898 and became Speaker of the house in 1899. During this same period, he served as a delegate to the Republican National Conventions of 1888, 1892, 1900, and 1904....

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Bristow, Benjamin Helm (20 June 1832–22 June 1896), lawyer and statesman, was born at Elkton, Kentucky, the eldest son of Francis Marion Bristow and Emily Edwards Helm. His father was a planter, lawyer, and politician while his mother was a member of one of Kentucky’s most distinguished families. Graduating in 1851 from Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, Bristow studied law in his father’s law office and was admitted to the bar in 1854. He married Abigail (“Abbie”) Slaughter Briscoe in 1854, and they had two children....

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Brooks, Erastus (31 January 1815–25 November 1886), journalist and politician, was born in Portland, Maine, the son of the late James Brooks (c. 1788–1814), a commander of a privateer in the War of 1812 who had gone down with his ship, and Betsey Folsom. The financial problems caused by his father’s early death meant that Erastus had to begin work at age eight as a grocery store clerk in Boston. Ever enterprising, he used his pocket money to buy books and attend night school. He soon was placed in a printing office, where he learned to set type. Knowledge of this trade enabled him to earn enough money to attend classes at Brown University, although he did not complete the course of study. Eager to work for himself, he started his own newspaper, the ...

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Brownell, Herbert, Jr. (20 February 1904–01 May 1996), U.S. attorney general, was born in Peru, Nebraska, the son of Herbert Brownell, Sr., a college professor, and May A. Miller Brownell. As a child Brownell became interested in politics and excelled at debating and journalism while attending local public schools. Following graduation, he entered the University of Nebraska, where he edited the student newspaper and made Phi Beta Kappa. Although he taught journalism during his senior year at nearby Doane College, an offer of financial assistance from Yale Law School swayed him toward a legal career, and he traveled east after receiving his A.B. in 1924. While at Yale Brownell edited the ...

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Browning, Orville Hickman (10 February 1806–10 August 1881), lawyer and politician, was born near Cynthiana, Kentucky, the son of Micajah Browning, a prosperous farmer and merchant, and Sally Brown. He attended Augusta College in Kentucky from 1825 through 1829 then read law in his uncle William Brown’s office in Cynthiana. In 1831 he was admitted to the bar and moved permanently to Quincy, Illinois. Browning served five weeks in the Illinois militia in the 1832 ...

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Bruce, Blanche Kelso (01 March 1841–17 March 1898), black political leader and U.S. senator during the Reconstruction era, was born in Farmville, Virginia, the son of Polly (surname unknown), a slave. The identity of his father is unknown, but he took the surname of the man who owned his mother before he was born. His childhood as a slave on a small plantation, first in Virginia, then briefly in Mississippi, and finally in Missouri did not significantly differ, as he later recalled, from that of the sons of whites. This relatively benign experience in slavery perhaps owed a great deal to the fact that he was a light-skinned mulatto and the favorite of a benevolent master and mistress. He shared a tutor with his master’s son and thus obtained the education that prepared him for later success. During the Civil War, despite the benevolence of his owner, he fled to freedom in Kansas, but after slavery was abolished he returned to Missouri where he reportedly established the first school in the state for blacks, at Hannibal....

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Bundesen, Herman Niels (27 April 1882–15 August 1960), physician, author, and politician, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of a Danish father and a German mother whose identities are unknown. Brought to Chicago at an early age by his impoverished, widowed mother, he graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1909. Also in 1909 he married Rega Russell; they had six children....

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Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence (08 September 1828–24 February 1914), soldier, politician, and educator, was born in Brewer, Maine, the son of Joshua Chamberlain, a farmer and shipbuilder, and Sarah Dupee Brastow. After attending a military academy in Ellsworth, Chamberlain entered Bowdoin College in 1848, graduating in 1852. Three years later, after graduating from the Bangor Theological Seminary, he joined Bowdoin’s faculty and taught a broad range of subjects, including logic, natural theology, rhetoric, oratory, and modern languages. In 1855 he married Frances Caroline Adams; of the couple’s five children, three survived to adulthood....

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Chapman, Oscar Littleton (22 October 1896–06 February 1978), humanitarian, politician, and secretary of the interior, was born in Halifax County, Virginia, the son of James Jackson Chapman and Rosa Blount, farmers. Portending his future liberalism, young Chapman rebelled against his southern heritage, choosing a picture of ...

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Chase, Salmon Portland (13 January 1808–07 May 1873), statesman, antislavery leader, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, the son of Ithamar Chase, a glassmaker and tavernkeeper, and Janette Ralston. When Chase was nine years old, his father died. To ease the financial burden on his mother, Chase, the eighth of eleven children, moved to Ohio and lived with his uncle ...