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Atchison, David Rice (11 August 1807–26 January 1886), lawyer and U.S. senator, was born in Frogtown, in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, the son of William Atchison and Catherine Allen, farmers. Educated at Transylvania University, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1827. After practicing for three years in Carlisle, Kentucky, he moved to Liberty in western Missouri....

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Baker, Newton Diehl (03 December 1871–25 December 1937), lawyer, mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, and secretary of war, was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, the son of Newton Diehl Baker, a physician and former Confederate soldier, and Mary Ann Dukehart. Baker graduated in 1892 from Johns Hopkins University, where he first met ...

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Baldwin, Roger Sherman (04 January 1793–19 February 1863), lawyer, governor, and senator, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Simeon Baldwin, a lawyer, judge, congressman, and mayor of New Haven, and Rebecca Sherman. Baldwin was a direct descendant of the Puritan settlers of Connecticut and the Founding Fathers of the nation. His father’s family was among the original New Haven colonists, and his mother was the daughter of ...

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Barnard, Daniel Dewey (11 September 1796–24 April 1861), lawyer, congressman, and diplomat, was born in East Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Timothy Barnard, a county judge, and Phebe Dewey. Barnard’s early years were spent on the family farm near Hartford, Connecticut. When he was twelve the family moved to Mendon, New York (near Rochester). His formal education started with a year at Lenox Academy, after which he transferred to Williams College, where he graduated in 1818....

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Beck, James Montgomery (09 July 1861–12 April 1936), lawyer, solicitor general, and congressman, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of James Nathan Beck, the owner of a small music publishing company, and Margaretta C. Darling. Coming from modest financial means, Beck inherited his father’s interest in music and the family’s Moravian antiwar and communitarian heritage, which contributed to his early pacifism and anticorporation viewpoints. Following matriculation at Philadelphia’s Episcopal Academy, Beck graduated from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1880. After reading law, he began legal practice in 1884. From 1888 to 1892, he served as assistant U.S. attorney for eastern Pennsylvania. In 1890 he married Lilla Mitchell, daughter of a Philadelphia businessman, with whom he had two children....

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Benjamin, Judah Philip (06 August 1811–06 May 1884), Confederate cabinet member, U.S. senator, and lawyer, was born at Christiansted, St. Croix, West Indies, the son of Philip Benjamin, a shopkeeper, and Rebecca de Mendes. St. Croix was under British rule at the time of Benjamin’s birth. He grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. Though his father’s circumstances were always modest, wealthy relatives and other benefactors helped him attend Yale (1825–1827), but he left as a junior under circumstances that remain unclear....

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Bentley, Elizabeth Terrill (01 January 1908–03 December 1963), Communist party activist and government witness, was born in New Milford, Connecticut, the daughter of Charles Prentiss Bentley, a newspaper editor and department store manager, and Mary Burrill, a schoolteacher. After growing up in small towns in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, Bentley enrolled in Vassar College and in 1930 received an undergraduate degree in English. While at Vassar, she became involved in a variety of Socialist causes but did not demonstrate any interest in more radical left-wing ideas. For two years following graduation, she taught languages at the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, but left in 1932 for Columbia University, where she earned her M.A. in Italian in 1935. While working on her graduate degree, she accepted a fellowship that took her to the University of Florence for the 1933–1934 academic year....

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Benton, Thomas Hart (14 March 1782–10 April 1858), U.S. senator and congressman, was born near Hillsboro (now Hillsborough), North Carolina, the son of Jesse Benton, a lawyer and farmer, and Ann “Nancy” Gooch. Jesse Benton died in 1791, leaving eight children, considerable land, extensive debts, and an aristocratic lifestyle. The family suffered a further blow when Thomas Hart Benton, at age sixteen, was expelled from the University of North Carolina for misusing money entrusted to him by roommates. The future senator was known ever after for scrupulous honesty and belligerent defense of his honor; concern that the story of his expulsion might surface probably influenced his consistent refusals to be considered for the presidency....

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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, Montgomery (10 May 1813–27 July 1883), postmaster general and lawyer, was born in Franklin County, Kentucky, the son of Francis Preston Blair and Eliza Violet Gist Blair. His father, who served in the War of 1812 and was an assistant newspaper editor at the time of Montgomery’s birth, later became the founder and editor of ...

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Boissevain, Inez Milholland (06 August 1886–25 November 1916), lawyer, feminist, and suffrage activist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of John Elmer Milholland, a reporter and editorial writer, and Jean Torrey. Her father supported many reforms, among them world peace, civil rights, and woman suffrage. It was probably through his influence that Inez acquired her sense of moral justice and her activist stance....

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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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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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Brandeis, Louis Dembitz (13 November 1856–05 October 1941), "people's attorney" and U.S. Supreme Court justice, “people’s attorney” and U.S. Supreme Court justice, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Adolph Brandeis, a successful businessman, and Frederika Dembitz. His parents, non-practicing Jews, had quietly supported the unsuccessful Austrian uprising of 1848 and had immigrated to the United States with their families in the wake of the repression and anti-Semitism that followed. Born as Louis David, Louis changed his middle name as a teenager in honor of his uncle, abolitionist lawyer ...

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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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Brown, Benjamin Gratz (28 May 1826–13 December 1885), U.S. senator and governor of Missouri, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of Mason Brown, a lawyer, and Judith Bledsoe. He was educated at Transylvania and Yale Universities, graduating from the latter in 1847. He then earned a degree from Louisville Law School. Upon being admitted to the bar in the fall of 1849, he moved to St. Louis to join his cousins ...

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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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Bryan, William Jennings (19 March 1860–26 July 1925), Democratic party leader, was born in Salem, Illinois, the son of Silas Bryan, a lawyer and judge, and Mariah Jennings. Bryan received strong values from his parents. His father was a Baptist, and his mother was a Methodist; church took a central place in the family’s life. William, at age fourteen, avoided choosing between his parents’ churches by becoming a Presbyterian during a revival meeting. Although he was a devout and active Presbyterian throughout his life, he felt comfortable worshiping with any of the major Protestant denominations. Silas Bryan was also a staunch Jacksonian Democrat, and William enthusiastically embraced his father’s party....

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Charles H. Sheldon

Burke, Thomas (22 December 1849–04 December 1925), lawyer, was born in Clinton County, New York, the son of James Burke and Delia Bridget Ryan, farmers. After his mother’s death in 1861, eleven-year-old Thomas left the farm and struck out on his own. He secured a position in a grocery store and then as a water carrier for railroad crews while boarding in Marion, Iowa. Later, while working part-time, he attended Ypsilanti Seminary in Michigan. Although slight of build and with a partially crippled arm, Thomas soon gained the respect of his classmates with his quick wit, unbounded energy, deep resonant voice, and eloquent speech—talents he would later use to great advantage in court and at public forums....

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Burr, Aaron (06 February 1756–14 September 1836), revolutionary soldier, U.S. senator, and vice president of the United States, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Aaron Burr, a theologian and the second president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), and ...