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Harris, Joel Chandler (09 December 1848–03 July 1908), journalist and author, was born near Eatonton, Georgia, the son of Mary Harris. His father was apparently a young itinerant Irish day laborer who lived with Harris’s mother until the child was born and then deserted her. The Harrises moved to a cottage on the Andrew Reid plantation, where the boy was exposed to the major components of mid-nineteenth-century Georgia society—poor white farmers; the social and economic upper-class, plantation-owning elite; and black slaves. At this time Harris began thinking about becoming a writer. Recalling his early life in ...

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Lardner, Ring (06 March 1885–25 September 1933), writer and journalist, was born Ringgold Wilmer Lardner in Niles, Michigan, the son of Henry Lardner, a prosperous businessman, and Lena Bogardus Phillips, a poet. Lardner’s childhood was idyllic. He grew up in a comfortable, upper-class home where nursemaids and other servants supplemented the indulgent, loving care of his parents. As a young child, Lardner, along with the brother and sister nearest him in age, wrote and performed in dramatic recitations, plays, and musical programs in the family home....

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Rogers, Will (04 November 1879–15 August 1935), entertainer and social commentator, was born William Penn Adair Rogers near Oologah, Oklahoma, in what was then the Cooweescoowee District of Indian Territory, the son of Clement Vann Rogers and Mary America Schrimsher, Cherokee ranchers. Rogers County, which contains both Oologah, site of the historic Rogers home, and Claremore, site of the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum, is named after the prominent father, not the prominent son. “Uncle Clem” was a major player in Oklahoma politics before and after statehood (1907), serving as a judge, as a member of the Dawes Commission (to distribute Indian lands prior to statehood), and as the first local banker. Will’s loving wife, the former Betty Blake, whom he married in 1908, later remembered that “Will had everything he wanted. He had spending money and the best string of cow ponies in the country. No boy in Indian Territory had more than Uncle Clem’s boy.” (Yet being “Uncle Clem’s boy” could have its downside, too.)...