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Byrnes, Thomas F. (15 June 1842–07 May 1910), New York City police official, was born in Ireland, the son of William Byrnes and Rose Doyle. The family immigrated to New York City when Thomas was an infant. After a limited formal education and training as a gas fitter, he joined the Union army in 1861. When his term of enlistment ended in 1863, Byrnes joined the New York Metropolitan Police Department. He rose rapidly through the ranks: he became a roundsman (a title then used for a first-level supervisor) in 1868, a sergeant in 1869, a captain in 1870, and the head of the detective bureau with the rank of inspector in 1880. Byrnes made his reputation by arresting members of the gang that in 1878 robbed the Manhattan Bank that was located in the precinct he commanded....

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Connor, Bull (11 July 1897–10 March 1973), city commissioner and symbol of southern resistance to race reform, was born Theophilus Eugene Connor in Selma, Alabama, the son of Hugh King (or King Edward) Connor, a railroad dispatcher, and Molly Godwin. He spent his childhood years in several cities but each summer lived with relatives in Plantersville, Alabama, where he met Beara Levens, whom he married in 1920. They had one daughter. After attending school in Birmingham and Selma, Connor found employment with Western Union as a telegraph operator. He moved to New Orleans, then Memphis, and later Dallas, where in 1921 a chance to announce a telegraph-reported baseball game altered his life forever. Sportscasting suited Connor, whose ungrammatical expressions and folksy chatter caught the public’s fancy. In 1922 he opened a baseball matinee in Birmingham where people paid to hear him read “live” telegraph reports and thus call the games of the local team. An instant hit, Connor’s booming style landed him a job selling radios as the “Voice of the Birmingham Barons” and earned him the nickname “Bull.”...

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Croker, Richard (23 November 1843–29 April 1922), New York City political leader, was born in County Cork, Ireland, the son of Eyre Coote Croker, a blacksmith and veterinarian. Little is known of his mother, except that her maiden name was Wellstead. In 1846 the Crokers immigrated to the United States and, after a short sojourn in Cincinnati, settled in New York City. Richard attended public school intermittently until he was thirteen years old, when he began an apprenticeship as a machinist for the Harlem Railroad. Young Croker’s prowess with his fists won the admiration of neighborhood street gang members, and he became leader of the Fourth Avenue Tunnel Gang....

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Davies, Henry Eugene, Jr. (02 July 1836–06 September 1894), soldier and public official, was born in New York City, the son of Henry Eugene Davies, a lawyer and judge, and Rebecca Tappan. A student at both Harvard and Williams College, he graduated from Columbia in 1857. Thereafter he practiced law in New York, where in 1858 he married Julia Rich. Whether they had any children is not known. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Davies’s education and social position helped him gain a captaincy in a prominent New York regiment, the Duryée Zouaves (Fifth N.Y. Volunteer Infantry). Early in May 1861 he accompanied his outfit to Fort Monroe, Virginia, at the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the James River. In that early theater of the war, Davies supervised picket duty and conducted scouting expeditions within Major General ...

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Denton, Daniel (1626–1703), author and local government official, was born in Yorkshire, England, the son of the Reverend Richard Denton, a Presbyterian minister, and Helen Windlbank. During the early 1640s Daniel accompanied his father to America. In 1644 Richard Denton became pastor at Hempstead, Long Island, where Daniel was made town clerk in 1650. Daniel relocated to Jamaica, New York, where he was one of the town’s original grantees and where, in 1656, he became town clerk. Near the end of the decade he married Abigail Stevenson; they had three children. On 4 March 1662 he was appointed a magistrate of Jamaica, and the following year he became overseer of the poor. In 1664 he represented Jamaica in its boundary dispute with Flushing. Also, Governor ...

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Jackson, Robert R. (01 September 1870–12 June 1942), politician, was born in Malta, Illinois, the son of William Jackson and Sarah Cooper. He spent most of his childhood in Chicago. At age nine he began selling newspapers and shining shoes in Chicago’s central business district; he left school in the eighth grade to work full time. By age eighteen he had garnered an appointment as a clerk in the post office, a position coveted by African Americans in this era because of its security relative to most other occupations open to them. He left the postal service as an assistant superintendent in 1909 to devote himself full time to his printing and publishing business, the Fraternal Press. In partnership with Beauregard F. Mosely in 1910 he cofounded the Leland Giants, Chicago’s first African-American baseball team. In 1912 Jackson won election as a Republican to the state legislature. From there he moved to the Chicago City Council, where he served as an alderman from 1918 through 1939. After leaving politics, Jackson returned to baseball, where he served a two-year stint as commissioner of the Negro American League....

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McArthur, John (17 November 1826–15 May 1906), soldier, businessman, and public servant, was born in Erskine Parish, on the River Clyde, in Renfrewshire, Scotland, the son of John McArthur and Isabella Neilson, who anticipated that he would become a Presbyterian divine. But he opted for employment in his father’s blacksmithery. In 1849—one year after he married a neighbor, Christine Cuthbertson—he emigrated to the United States, joining his brother-in-law, Carlile Mason, in Chicago. McArthur and Cuthbertson had seven children. After working for several years as a boilermaker and having accumulated some capital in 1854 McArthur entered into partnership with Mason as owner-manager of the Excelsior Ironworks, manufacturing “steam boilers, engines, and iron work of every description.” Buying out Mason, from 1858 to 1861 McArthur was sole operator of the business....

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Milk, Harvey (22 May 1930–27 November 1978), politician and gay rights activist, was born Harvey Bernard Milk in Woodmere, Long Island, New York, the son of William Milk and Minerva Karns. His father operated a department store in Woodmere that was founded in 1882 by his grandfather, Morris Milk (originally Milch), a Lithuanian immigrant. Before she married his father, Milk’s mother was an early feminist activist who joined the Yoemanettes, a group agitating for the inclusion of women in the U.S. Navy during World War I....

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Robert Moses. With model of proposed Battery Bridge. Photograph by C. M. Spieglitz, 1939. Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection: LC-USZ62-136065).

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Moses, Robert (18 December 1888–29 July 1981), public official, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Emanuel Moses, a department store owner, and Bella Silverman. His family moved to Manhattan when he was nine. He attended various private schools, including the Ethical Culture School and the Dwight School, supplemented by private tutoring. At fifteen he was sent to the Mohegan Lake Academy, a boarding school near Poughkeepsie, before he returned to New Haven to attend Yale in 1905. Moses graduated in 1909, one of only five Jews in his class. An avid reader and reportedly a brilliant student, he continued his education first at Oxford and then later at Columbia University, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in political science in 1914. His doctoral dissertation, which he had started at Oxford, was titled ...

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Pelham, Benjamin B. (1862–07 October 1948), newspaper publisher, municipal official, and political leader, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Robert Pelham, a plasterer and mason, and Frances Butcher. The Pelhams were a prosperous free black family who at one time owned a farm in Petersburg, Virginia. They were forced to sell, however, because of the harassment of townspeople, who were probably jealous of the family’s success. The need to leave Virginia became apparent when the Pelhams attempted to purchase a license for their pet dog but were turned down by local authorities, who claimed that only whites and slaves could purchase dog licenses. The family decided to head north, and around 1862, after brief stops in Columbus, Ohio, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Pelhams settled in Detroit shortly after Benjamin’s birth....

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Whalen, Grover Michael Aloysius Augustine (02 June 1886–20 April 1962), promoter, official greeter, and businessman, was born in New York City, the son of Michael Henry Whalen, a hauling contractor, and Esther De Nee. After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School, Whalen attended Packard Business College. In 1904 he entered New York Law School while working part-time as a clerk in the ...