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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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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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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 ...

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Cobb, Howell (07 September 1815–09 October 1868), lawyer and politician, was born at Cherry Hill in Jefferson County, Georgia, the son of John Addison Cobb, a planter, and Sarah Robinson (Rootes). Enrolling in Franklin College (now the University of Georgia) in Athens, Georgia, in 1829, he graduated in 1834. His college years were marked by his expulsion from school after participating in a riot to protest disciplinary action by the faculty for a minor infraction of leaving campus without permission; he was later readmitted. At the same time, they saw him first show signs of his strong Unionism, for he opposed the nullification movement in South Carolina. On 26 May 1835 he married Mary Ann Lamar; the couple had six children. With marriage Cobb acquired his wife’s sizable estate, including several cotton plantations and some 200 slaves....

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Colquitt, Alfred Holt (20 April 1824–26 March 1894), Confederate military officer and politician, was born in Walton County, Georgia, the son of Walter T. Colquitt, an attorney and later a judge, congressman, and U.S. senator, and Nancy Lane. Graduating from Princeton University in 1844, Colquitt studied law and was admitted to the bar in Georgia in 1846....

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Corwin, Thomas (29 July 1794–18 December 1865), politician, was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, the son of Matthias Corwin, a legislator and farmer, and Patience Halleck. In 1798 the Corwins moved to Lebanon, Ohio, where Thomas, one of nine children, worked on the family farm. He read law in Lebanon, Ohio, under attorney Joshia Collett and was admitted to the bar in 1817. In 1818 he was appointed prosecuting attorney of Warren County. In 1822 he married Sarah Ross, with whom he had five children. During the 1820s he concentrated on his law practice and served three one-year terms in the Ohio legislature....

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Cox, James Middleton (31 March 1870–15 July 1957), newspaper publisher and politician, was born in Jacksonburg, Ohio, the son of Eliza Andrews and Gilbert Cox, farmers. He attended a one-room school until he was sixteen. His parents divorced, and in 1886 Cox moved to nearby Middletown to live with his mother. Cox’s brother-in-law John Q. Baker, who published the ...

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Cullom, Shelby Moore (22 November 1829–28 January 1914), politician, was born in Wayne County, Kentucky, the seventh of the twelve children of Richard Northcraft Cullom and Elizabeth Coffey, farmers. Within a year the family moved to Tazewell County, Illinois, and Richard Cullom eventually achieved enough prominence to serve two terms in the lower house of the Illinois General Assembly and two in the state senate as a Whig between 1836 and 1854. The rigors of farm work and a stint of country-school teaching helped crystallize in young Shelby a desire to study law. In 1853, following two years of indifferent schooling at the Rock River Seminary at Mount Morris, Cullom moved to Springfield, sought advice from ...

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Davis, John (13 January 1787–19 April 1854), lawyer and politician, was born in Northborough, Massachusetts, the son of Isaac Davis and Anna Brigham, farmers. Davis attended Yale College, graduating with high honors in 1812, after which he studied law in the office of Francis Blake, a prominent Worcester lawyer, and was admitted to the bar in 1815. After a short time in Spencer, Massachusetts, he settled in Worcester and established a successful law practice. In 1822 Davis married Eliza Bancroft, a sister of historian, Democratic politician, diplomat, and secretary of the navy ...

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Dewey, Thomas Edmund (24 March 1902–16 March 1971), prosecutor, governor of New York, and presidential candidate, was born in Owosso, Michigan, the son of George Martin Dewey, Jr., a newspaper editor, and Annie Louise Thomas. The Deweys were a Republican family of newspaper editors and publishers. During his youth in Owosso, Thomas showed promise as a baritone, and he studied both music and law at the University of Michigan from 1919 to 1923, graduating with an A.B. In 1923 Dewey moved to New York after winning a summer scholarship for further vocal training, but he also enrolled at Columbia Law School and ultimately decided to abandon music for the law. After graduating with an LL.B. in 1925, he worked at two Wall Street law firms and became active in Republican party politics in Manhattan in the late 1920s. During this time he first encountered ...

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Dix, John Adams (24 July 1798–21 April 1879), politician and general, was born in Boscawen, New Hampshire, the son of Timothy Dix, a merchant, and Abigail Wilkins. He received a varied liberal education, including a year at Phillips Exeter Academy and fifteen months at the College of Montreal. At age fourteen, while being tutored in Boston, Dix pleaded to join the army to defend the nation in the War of 1812. His father, a major, helped him to obtain a commission, and he served in battles at Chrysler’s Field (1813) and Lundy’s Lane (1814). His father’s death during the war caused Dix to stay in the army to help support his stepmother and siblings. Serving as an aide to Major General ...

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Everett, Edward (11 April 1794–15 January 1865), statesman and orator, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Everett, a clergyman and judge who died when Edward was eight years old, and Lucy Hill, a woman of inherited means. Everett attended Harvard College, graduating in 1811 with highest honors at what was (even for then) a young age. He took an M.A. in divinity in 1814 and was installed that year as minister to the Unitarian Brattle Street Church, then the most distinguished pulpit in Boston....

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Gordon, John Brown (06 February 1832–09 January 1904), soldier and politician, was born in Upson County, Georgia, the son of Zachariah Herndon Gordon, a minister, and Malinda Cox. After studies at a private school established by his father, John attended Pleasant Green Academy for a year before entering the University of Georgia in 1850. He did well at Georgia but did not graduate. In 1854 he moved to Atlanta to pursue a legal career. His practice, however, was not as successful as he had hoped, and he decided to explore other fields of employment. After a brief stint as a journalist covering the Georgia General Assembly, he joined his father in a coal-mining venture that quickly prospered. In 1854 he married Fanny Rebecca Haralson, with whom he had six children....

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Gore, Christopher (21 September 1758–01 March 1827), Federalist statesman, diplomat, and lawyer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Gore, a paint and color dealer, and Frances Pinkney. Paternally, he was descended from a Puritan family that migrated from Hampshire in England to Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1635. After attending the Boston Public Latin School, Gore entered Harvard College where he graduated in 1776. Although his Loyalist father fled Boston in 1776, Gore remained in Massachusetts and served the revolutionary cause as an officer in an artillery regiment. John Gore returned to America from England in 1785 and regained his citizenship. The taint of his father’s Toryism persisted, however, and Gore’s opponents used it against him when he was a candidate for the Massachusetts ratifying convention in 1787....

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Hartranft, John Frederick (16 December 1830–17 October 1889), Civil War officer and politician, was born near Pottstown, Pennsylvania, the child of Samuel E. Hartranft, a local landowner, and Lydia Bucher, both of German ancestry. He graduated from Union College in 1853 with a degree in civil engineering. About the same time as his marriage to Sallie Sebring (with whom he had one son and two daughters) in 1854, Hartranft changed his life’s vocation to law and politics....

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Holland, Spessard Lindsey (10 July 1892–06 November 1971), lawyer and politician, was born in Bartow, Florida, the son of Benjamin Franklin Holland, an owner of a citrus grove and general farm, and Fannie Virginia Spessard, a teacher in the Summerlin Institute, Bartow. His paternal grandfather, Lindsay Holland, served in the Georgia legislature, and his maternal grandfather, Nat Spessard, served in the Virginia legislature. Holland attended Emory College, Oxford, Georgia, from the fall of 1909 until June 1912, graduating magna cum laude while earning letters in track and football. He then taught high school in Warrenton, Georgia, for two years before enrolling at the University of Florida Law School in Gainesville, Florida, in 1914. Holland served as president of the student body and graduated with an LL.B. in 1916, finishing second in his class. He earned letters in basketball and baseball. ...

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Houston, Sam (02 March 1793–26 July 1863), president of the Republic of Texas and U.S. senator, was born Samuel Houston in Rockbridge County, Virginia, the son of Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton, well-to-do planters of Scotch-Irish descent. Houston’s father died in 1806, and he moved with his mother and eight siblings to Blount County, Tennessee, in 1807....

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Johnston, Olin DeWitt Talmadge (18 November 1896–18 April 1965), politician, was born near Honea Path, South Carolina, the son of Ed Andrew Johnston, a tenant farmer and textile worker, and Leila Webb. Johnston attended local schools but gained another sort of education by working in a local textile mill. Before the outbreak of World War I he attended the Fruitland Institute in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and then the Textile Industrial Institute and Wofford College, both in Spartanburg, South Carolina. During World War I Johnston enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in France with the 117th Engineer Regiment of the Forty-second or Rainbow Division. He gained the rank of sergeant and received a citation for bravery....

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Kerr, Robert Samuel (11 September 1896–01 January 1963), oil executive and politician, was born in Indian territory, near present-day Ada, Oklahoma, the son of William Samuel Kerr, a farmer, clerk, and politician, and Margaret Eloda Wright. Kerr’s upbringing as a Southern Baptist had a profound influence on his life. Not only did his religious beliefs lead him to teach Sunday school and to shun alcohol throughout his adulthood, it also aided his political aspirations in a conservative state where Baptists were the single largest denomination....