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Brooks, Walter Henderson (30 August 1851–06 July 1945), clergyman, temperance leader, and poet, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Albert Royal Brooks and Lucy Goode, slaves. Brooks’s father was an enterprising slave who owned his own “snack house” and a livery business that brought him into contact with some of Virginia’s wealthiest citizens, including his wife’s owner, German consul Daniel Von Groning. Albert Brooks purchased his wife’s freedom in 1862 for $800. Still a slave, Walter Brooks at age seven was sold to the Turpin & Yarborough tobacco firm. He woefully recalled his time there, writing: “It was all I could do to perform the task assigned to my little hands. What I do remember is that I stood in mortal fear of ‘the consequences’ of failing to do what was required of me.” When the Richmond manufacturer fell victim to wartime economic decline, Brooks was allowed to reside with his mother and began working in hotels, boardinghouses, and restaurants. In his youth he acquired the doctrines that served as the foundation for his life’s work. He learned temperance from his pastor, the Reverend ...

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Murray, Orson S. (23 October 1806–14 June 1885), Baptist minister, editor, and radical reformer, was born in Orwell, Vermont, the son of Jonathan Murray and Rosalinda Bascom, farmers. Murray grew up impoverished on a hardscrabble farm in Orwell, obtaining only a few years of schooling. His parents were devout Free Will Baptists, and as a teenager Murray felt called to the Baptist ministry. In 1828 he married Catherine Maria Higgins; the couple had nine children. Determined to have a classical education, he returned to school at the Shoreham and Castleton academies, completing his studies in 1832....

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Potter, Ray (22 June 1795–01 March 1858), Baptist minister and businessman, was born in Cranston, Rhode Island, the son of Andrew Potter, a carpenter and revolutionary war veteran, and Minerva Remington. At the age of seventeen Potter experienced a dramatic conversion at the local Six Principle Baptist Church; that same year (1812) he married Minerva Bennett. They had nine children. In 1820 he and his family left the “closed communion” of the Six Principle Church and joined with Freewill Baptists who were then organizing a new church in Pawtucket, a prosperous mill village near the Massachusetts border. There Potter taught school to support his family, attended nightly meetings, and preached three times on Sunday. Converts into his new Freewill church came from rural families, who after moving into factory work were reluctant to attend the churches favored by mill owners and managers....