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Salmon P. Chase. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1747).

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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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Howell Cobb. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110081).

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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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Dingley, Nelson, Jr. (15 February 1832–14 January 1899), politician and congressman, was born in Durham, Maine, the son of Nelson Dingley, a farmer, owner of a general store, and tavern keeper, and Jane Lambert. Dingley went to schools in Parkman and Unity, Maine, read avidly, and took an intense interest in politics. He started a diary when he was in his early teens and added regular entries until he became fatally ill. He spent several years at Waterville Academy and continued on at Waterville College (now Colby) until 1853, when he left in a dispute with the faculty. He finished his undergraduate work at Dartmouth College, graduating with the class of 1855. He studied law and was admitted to the bar. Dingley married Salome McKenney in 1857; they had five children....

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Sam Houston. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110029).

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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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Lawrence, David Leo (18 June 1889–21 November 1966), political boss and government official, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles B. Lawrence, an unskilled laborer, and Catherine Conwell. Lawrence’s early political universe was confined to the Gaelic Irish community located at the juncture of Pittsburgh’s three rivers. His maternal grandfather and his father were both involved in ward-level politics and young David’s first job at age nine was to run errands for First Ward alderman Steve Toole. Young Lawrence’s association with these three men introduced him to Democratic pro-labor politics in a town dominated by Republican manufacturing interests. Political survival for Democrats in Pittsburgh required cooperation, if not collaboration, with the Republican interests....

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Frank Murphy. Pencil on paper, c. 1940-45, by Oskar Stoessel. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mrs. Boris Chaliapin.

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Murphy, Frank (13 April 1890–19 July 1949), politician and Supreme Court justice, was baptized William Francis Murphy in what is now Harbor Beach, Michigan, the son of John F. Murphy, a Canadian-born attorney, and Mary Brennan. He was deeply attached to his mother, who died in 1924, and his chief biographer believes that this attachment probably accounted for his not marrying. Educated in the public schools, Murphy received an LL.B. from the University of Michigan in 1914. After graduation he joined a Detroit law firm that was counsel to the city’s employer association. He also taught in a night school for immigrants, which, he later wrote, gave him an insight into the problems of “the submerged majority,” and beginning law classes at the University of Detroit, his one direct connection with American Catholic education. Soon after the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, Murphy attended a Reserve Officers Training Camp, was commissioned a first lieutenant, served with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France without seeing combat, did occupation duty in Germany, and under the army’s postarmistice educational program, studied law briefly at Lincoln’s Inn, London, and Trinity College, Dublin. He sailed for home in July 1919 and was discharged as a captain the next month. While in France in August 1918 he had received but declined a Democratic nomination for Congress, and before he returned to the United States, he was named first assistant U.S. attorney for Michigan’s Eastern District....

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Paterson, William (24 December 1745–09 September 1806), statesman and Supreme Court justice, was born in County Antrim, Ireland, the son of Richard Paterson, a tin plate worker, and Mary (maiden name unknown). In 1747 the family moved to America, where they finally settled in Princeton, New Jersey, and opened a general store. The College of New Jersey (later Princeton), was located near the Paterson home and inspired in William a desire for education. In 1759, at the age of thirteen, he enrolled there after taking Latin and Greek at a local preparatory school. In college he studied the classics, theology, history, and moral philosophy. Graduating in 1763, Paterson read law with ...

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Russell, Richard Brevard, Jr. (02 November 1897–21 January 1971), senator and political leader, was born in Winder, Georgia, the son of Richard Brevard Russell, a lawyer and judge, and Blandina Dillard. Russell was educated at Gordon Military Institute and at the University of Georgia, where he received a law degree in 1918. After serving only about two months in the navy at the end of World War I in late 1918, he returned to practice law with his father in Winder....

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Rutledge, John (1739–18 July 1800), lawyer and statesman, was born in or near Charleston, South Carolina, the son of John Rutledge, a physician, and Sarah Hext, a wealthy heiress who was only fifteen years old at Rutledge’s birth. His early education was in Charleston, where he read law with one of the leading members of the Charleston bar, James Parsons, before being enrolled in the Middle Temple in London on 11 October 1754. Admitted to the English bar on 9 February 1760, he soon returned to South Carolina. The voters of Christ Church parish promptly elected him to the Commons House of Assembly in 1761, and he continued to represent that area in the local legislature for the remainder of the colonial period. During his first term the house was embroiled in the “Gadsden election controversy” with the royal governor over its right to judge the qualifications of its own members. Rutledge became chairman of the committee on privileges and elections, which vigorously upheld the powers of the representatives of the people. Meanwhile, his private practice as an attorney was flourishing, and he soon became one of the two or three best-paid lawyers in the province. He also operated several plantations and acquired at least 30,000 acres in various grants. These activities may help to explain why his committee work in the Commons House usually put him in the second, rather than the first, rank of leaders. Nevertheless, his colleagues chose him for important assignments. In 1765 the Commons House sent him and two others to the Stamp Act Congress in New York, where Rutledge served as chairman of the committee that drew up a memorial to the House of Lords protesting taxation of Americans by Parliament. In 1763 he married Elizabeth Grimké; they had ten children....

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John Rutledge. Photograph of a painting, c. 1891. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-91143).

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Levi Woodbury. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110056).

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Woodbury, Levi (22 December 1789–04 September 1851), politician and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Francestown, New Hampshire, the son of Peter Woodbury, a farmer and merchant, and Mary Woodbury, a distant cousin of Peter Woodbury. After graduating with honors from Dartmouth College in 1809, he attended ...

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Worthington, Thomas (16 July 1773–20 June 1827), entrepreneur, politician, and U.S. senator, was born near Charlestown, Berkeley County, Virginia (now Jefferson County, W.Va.), the son of Robert Worthington, a prominent planter, and Margaret Matthews, from Frederickton, Maryland, who was of Irish background. Orphaned by the age of seven, he received little formal education and in May 1791 went to sea for two years. On his return he farmed the Berkeley County estate, took up surveying, and bought up Virginia military land warrants that he located near Chillicothe in the Northwest Territory. In December 1796 he married Eleanor Van Swearingen of Shepherdstown, Virginia, herself an orphan with a rich property. The couple had ten children. In spring 1798 Worthington freed his slaves and moved his family to Chillicothe; they were joined by his brother-in-law and lifelong political ally, ...