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Ayer, William Ward (07 November 1892–18 November 1985), Baptist pastor and religious broadcaster, was born in Shediac, New Brunswick, Canada, the son of George Walter Ayer, an employee of a marine construction business, and his cousin Sarah Jane Ayer. The youngest of the Ayers’ ten children, William suffered the loss of his mother at age five. After enduring seven years of his father’s mistreatment and neglect, he was taken to live in Brooklyn, New York, with one of his older brothers. After about a year there, in 1906 he went to the Boston area to live with other siblings. Ayer quit school in the ninth grade and began to learn the printing trade, leading the life of a roustabout printer’s devil for some ten years. In 1916, after attending ...

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Fosdick, Harry Emerson (24 May 1878–05 October 1969), liberal Protestant minister, was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Frank Sheldon Fosdick, a public schoolteacher and principal, and Amie Inez Weaver. Raised as a Baptist, Harry underwent a conversion experience at age seven, pledging his life to Christian service. His parents, though pious, were not narrow sectarians, and his father, especially, was salty, questioning, and open to the disturbing new intellectual currents of the late Victorian era. The major strains of Harry’s youth seem to have been his family’s relentlessly tight finances, his mother’s periodic severe mental depressions, and, according to his later accounts, his own intense, persisting fears of divine wrath....