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A. Oakey Hall. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109931).

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Hall, Abraham Oakey (26 July 1826–07 October 1898), politician and journalist, was born in Albany, New York, the son of Morgan James Hall, a wholesale merchant whose business was in New Orleans, and Elsie Lansing Oakey. In 1830 his father died of yellow fever and his mother moved to New York City, where she ran a boardinghouse. Relatives helped his mother finance his education, and Oakey (as he preferred to be called) graduated from New York University in 1844. He attended Harvard Law School for one term but decided that study in a law office would allow him to practice law sooner. Living with an uncle in New Orleans, he studied under noted states’ rights Democrats ...

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Hardin, William Jefferson (1831–1890), legislator, was born in Russellville, Kentucky, the illegitimate son of a free quadroon (name unknown) and a white father. Hardin claimed that his father was the brother of Ben Hardin, a Kentucky politician and congressman, but the fact cannot be verified. Raised in a Shaker community in South Union, Kentucky, Hardin’s educational and social opportunities were unusual for a person considered black in the antebellum period....

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Menino, Thomas M. (27 Dec. 1942–30 Oct. 2014), Democratic politician and mayor of Boston, was born Thomas Michael Menino to Carl and Susan Menino in the working class Boston neighborhood of Hyde Park. His grandparents, both Italian immigrants, lived in the other half of their two-family house. Menino’s father worked at the local Westinghouse factory. Menino graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School, a Catholic school in Jamaica Plain. After graduation Menino took a job as an insurance salesman for Metropolitan Life while he attended night classes at Boston College. He would soon drop out of college, arguing that his political hero, ...

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Skaggs, William H. (16 September 1861–19 January 1947), businessman, mayor, reformer, and commentator, was born in the North Alabama town of Talladega, the son of James M. Skaggs, a wagonmaker, and Mary Smith Skaggs. The brilliant child of an unpretentious family, Skaggs had the great ambition of making an impact on the world of public affairs. A voracious reader from childhood, he soon developed an interest in government and history. Yet his first career was in business, and for a time he was remarkably successful....