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Alcorn, James Lusk (04 November 1816–20 December 1894), governor of Mississippi and U.S. senator, was born in Golconda, Illinois, the son of James Alcorn and Hannah (maiden name unknown). Soon after his birth, Alcorn’s family moved to Salem, Kentucky, where his father farmed and served as a boatman on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. In 1836 Alcorn briefly attended Cumberland College in Princeton, Kentucky. He tried teaching in Jackson, Arkansas, but soon returned to Livingston County, Kentucky, to serve as deputy sheriff under his uncle. Alcorn also studied law and in 1838 was admitted to the Kentucky bar. In the same year he married Mary Catherine Stewart; they had four children....

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Aldrich, Nelson Wilmarth (06 November 1841–16 April 1915), U.S. senator, congressman, and businessman, was born in Foster, Rhode Island, the son of Anan Aldrich and Abby Burgess, farmers. Having received a modest education in East Killingly, Connecticut, and at the East Greenwich Academy in Rhode Island, Aldrich was by age seventeen working in Providence. Eventually a large wholesale grocery firm, Waldron, Wightman & Co., hired him as a clerk and bookkeeper. His career there was briefly interrupted in 1862 by service with the Tenth Rhode Island Volunteers garrisoning Washington, D.C. After contracting typhoid that same year he returned to Providence and, by 1866, had been elevated to junior partner at Waldron, Wightman. He married Abby Chapman that year; the couple would have eleven children. His wife was of independent means, but Aldrich insisted on accumulating a fortune on his own account and gradually did so. He worked his way up to full partner at Waldron, Wightman, was a director of the Roger Williams Bank by 1872, and by 1877 was president of Providence’s First National Bank. He also headed the city’s Board of Trade in these years....

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Allen, William (18 December 1803–11 July 1879), U.S. senator and congressman and governor of Ohio, was born in Edenton, North Carolina, the son of Nathaniel Allen, a wealthy merchant and landowner, and Sarah Colburn. Allen’s father had surrendered his Quaker principles to fight in the American Revolution and was a delegate to the North Carolina convention convened to consider the federal Constitution in 1788. Both parents died shortly after William’s birth, and he was raised by his half sister, the wife of a Methodist Episcopal minister, the Reverend Pleasant Thurman. Although born into the gentry, the tangled genealogy of his family, owing to his father’s three marriages and various legal technicalities, denied Allen any inheritance of his father’s considerable assets....

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Ames, Adelbert (31 October 1835–13 April 1933), soldier and politician, was born in Rockland, Maine, the son of Jesse Ames, a sea captain, and Martha B. Tolman. After spending some time at sea as a teenager, Ames entered the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1861. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the Fifth Artillery. During the Civil War he was wounded at First Bull Run (First Manassas) on 21 July, and he later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism there in refusing to leave his post despite the wound. He served with the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsula campaign of 1862, and for his actions at Malvern Hill he was brevetted lieutenant colonel. On 8 August 1862 he was named colonel in command of the Twentieth Maine Volunteer Infantry, with ...

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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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Austin, Warren Robinson (12 November 1877–25 December 1962), U.S. senator and ambassador, was born in the rural community of Highgate Center, Vermont, near the Canadian border, the son of Chauncey Goodrich Austin, a successful country lawyer, and Anne Robinson. He attended the University of Vermont, receiving his Ph.B. in 1899. He married Mildred Lucas in 1901, and they had two children....

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Badger, George Edmund (17 April 1795–11 May 1866), U.S. senator and secretary of the navy, was born in New Bern, North Carolina, the son of Thomas Badger, a prominent attorney, and Lydia Cogdell. His father died when George was four, and he was raised by his mother. He attended Yale College for two years but left without graduating after a relative withdrew his financial support. He studied law under his maternal cousin, John Stanly, and received his license in 1814. Soon afterward he was appointed solicitor for the New Bern District. He represented the borough of New Bern in the general assembly of 1816....

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Baker, Howard Henry, Jr. (15 Nov. 1925–26 June 2014), politician and diplomat, was born in Huntsville, Tennessee, to Howard Henry Baker, Sr., a lawyer and politician who subsequently served in the US House of Representatives (1951–1964), and Dora Ladd Baker. The Baker family were staunch Presbyterians, members of the Republican Party since the Civil War, and longtime defenders of civil rights for the minority African American population. Young Baker’s paternal grandfather was a prominent judge, and his maternal grandmother was the first female sheriff in Tennessee....

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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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Barbour, W. Warren (31 July 1888–22 November 1943), businessman and U.S. senator from New Jersey, was born William Warren Barbour in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, the son of Colonel William Barbour, president of The Linen Thread Company, and Julia Adelaide Sprague. Barbour was educated at the Browning School in New York City. Though admitted to Princeton in 1906, he instead entered the family's thread business. In 1908 Barbour enlisted in Squadron A of the New York National Guard....

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Bayard, Thomas Francis (29 October 1828–28 September 1898), U.S. senator, secretary of state, and ambassador to Great Britain, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of James Asheton Bayard, a political leader and U.S. senator, and Ann Francis. The family had been politically prominent in Delaware for generations, and Thomas was educated in private schools. In 1843, when his father moved briefly to New York, Thomas found employment in a mercantile house there and, for less than a year in about 1846–1847, in Philadelphia. Although he never attended college, he at about the age of twenty began to read law in Wilmington and was admitted to the bar in 1851. He developed a successful practice in Wilmington and Philadelphia administering estates and from 1853 to 1854 served as U.S. district attorney for Delaware. In 1856 he married Louise Lee, with whom he had three sons and six daughters....

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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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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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Beveridge, Albert Jeremiah (06 October 1862–27 April 1927), U.S. senator and historian, was born in Highland County, Ohio, the son of Thomas Beveridge and Frances Parkinson, farmers. The family moved to Illinois when Beveridge was a child. Because of his father’s financial difficulties, Beveridge worked as a plowboy, railroad section hand, logger, and teamster. He attended Asbury College (now DePauw University), graduating in 1885. He made his mark there in oratory, and he had a reputation throughout his life as a spellbinding public speaker. He was admitted to the bar in 1887. He married Katherine Langsdale that same year; she died in 1900. He married Catherine Eddy in 1907; they had two children....

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Bingham, Hiram (19 November 1875–06 June 1956), explorer, was born Hiram Bingham III in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of Hiram Bingham (1831–1908) and Clarissa Minerva Brewster, missionaries. Bingham’s family assumed he would constitute the third generation of missionary service to the natives of the south Pacific and constantly pressured him to live the godly life. His few efforts as a missionary literally made him sick, and he seems to have had little interest in the salvation of the natives. Bingham (he appears to have dropped the III about the time his father died) instead sublimated the family’s missionary zeal into a broad variety of interests....

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Black, Hugo Lafayette (27 February 1886–25 September 1971), associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and senator from Alabama, was born in Harlan, near Ashland, Clay County, Alabama, the son of William Lafayette Black, a storekeeper, and Martha Ardella Toland. Although not raised in poverty, Black was a child of relatively humble antecedents. Through the depressions of the mid-1870s and 1890s, his father gradually acquired title to the property of debtors and left his children a sizable estate. Hugo used his inheritance to finance his education, attending medical school in Birmingham before switching to the law. He graduated from the University of Alabama Law School at Tuscaloosa in 1906. He then opened a law office in Clay County, but business was moribund, and in 1907 he moved to Birmingham. Black’s first big case was the suit of a black convict who had been held in the convict lease program of a steel company for twenty-two days after his release date. Black won damages for his client and an enhanced reputation as well as his fee. Soon he became one of Birmingham’s most successful plaintiffs’ lawyers, a master of the jury trial, with an income of approximately $47,000, which was generated by hundreds of contingent-fee cases. He also earned the respect, even the friendship, of those in a position to judge his performance. Indeed, throughout his life, Black was renowned for his charm, his ability to withstand criticism with equanimity, and his generosity to opponents. He was polite, collegial, forgiving—and unswerving....

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Blaine, John James (04 May 1875–16 April 1934), governor of Wisconsin and U.S. senator, was born near Castle Rock, in Grant County, Wisconsin, the son of James Ferguson Blaine and Elizabeth Johnson-Brunstad, farmers. Blaine attended Valparaiso University, from which he received a law degree in 1896. He began a law practice in Boscobel, Wisconsin, immediately after graduation. He married Anna C. McSpaden in 1904; they had one daughter....

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Blease, Coleman Livingston (08 October 1868–19 January 1942), governor of South Carolina and U.S. senator, was born near Newberry Courthouse, South Carolina, the son of Henry Horatio Blease, a farmer who later became a hotel and livery stable owner, and Mary Ann Livingston. Cole, or “Coley,” lived with his large family in the conviviality of their popular Newberry hotel, which nurtured his gregarious personality and prepared him for a career in popular politics. In 1879 he entered Newberry Academy (later College), where he eventually completed the junior year of the school’s collegiate curriculum. In 1887 he enrolled at the law school of South Carolina College but was soon expelled for plagiarism. In 1888 he ran for the state legislature, mounting a campaign that featured white supremacist and anticorporate harangues, but he received little support at the Democratic county convention. Following his defeat, he attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he earned a bachelor of laws degree in 1889, and later that year he began practicing law in Newberry and Saluda, South Carolina. In 1890 he married Lillie B. Summers, who died in 1934. They had no children....

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Borah, William Edgar (29 June 1865–19 January 1940), U.S. senator, was born in Jasper Township, Illinois, the son of William Nathan Borah and Eliza West, farmers. Although enamored of the written and spoken word at an early age, Borah was an indifferent student and never finished high school. He refused to agree to his father’s wish that he prepare for the ministry and for a brief period worked in an itinerant acting group. At the invitation of an older sister, whose husband was an attorney, Borah moved to Kansas and enrolled at the University of Kansas in the fall of 1885, but lack of financial resources and poor health forced him to drop out in the spring of 1887. Instead, he read law and passed the bar examination that same year. Borah practiced law with his brother-in-law for three years, after which he headed west. He got no farther than Boise, Idaho, where he ran out of money, according to his own account....

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Borland, Solon (08 August 1811–15 December 1864), editor, U.S. senator, and diplomat, was born in Suffolk, Virginia, the son of Thomas Wood Borland, a physician, and Harriet Godwin. His father was politically active, serving as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Nansemond County between 1815 and 1820. In 1831 Borland married Huldah Wright, with whom he had two children. Following in the medical footsteps of his father, he attended the University of Pennsylvania Medical School during the academic year of 1833–1834. He then practiced medicine in Suffolk, but upon the death of his wife in 1836 Borland moved to Memphis, Tennessee. There he entered into a medical career with his brother, who was also a physician. In 1839 Borland married Eliza Hart, who died just a few months later. They had no children. By this time he had forsaken pills for politics, becoming the founding editor of the ...