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Napier, James Carroll (09 June 1845–21 April 1940), politician, attorney, and businessman, was born on the western outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee. His parents, William C. Napier and Jane E., were slaves at the time of his birth but were freed in 1848. After manumission and a brief residency in Ohio, William Napier moved his family to Nashville, where he established a livery stable business. James attended the black elementary and secondary schools of Nashville before entering Wilberforce University (1864–1866) and Oberlin College (1866–1868), both in Ohio....

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Rowe, John (1715–17 February 1787), merchant, smuggler, and political trimmer during the American Revolution, was born in Exeter, England, the son of Joseph Rowe and Mary Hawker (occupations unknown). He took up residence in Boston, Massachusetts, by 1736 and remained there throughout his life. In 1743 he married Hannah Speakman, the twin sister of the first wife of the wealthy Cambridge merchant and future Loyalist Ralph Inman; they had no children. His wife’s family had helped to found Trinity Church, Boston’s second Anglican parish, and Rowe served on its vestry from 1761 until his death. These family associations may have helped to moderate Rowe’s initial vigorous support of the patriot cause....

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Shippen, Edward (1639– August 1712), merchant, religious martyr, and political leader, was born in Yorkshire, England, the son of William Shippen, a prominent landholder, and Mary Nunnes (or Nuns). Although his older brother earned degrees at Oxford and became an Anglican clergyman, Edward in 1668 emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, a wilderness town of about 3,500. In 1671 he married Elizabeth Lybrand; they had eight children during their seventeen years together. Not long after he joined an artillery company, Shippen converted to his wife’s faith and became a member of the Society of Friends....

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Smith, Melancton (07 May 1744–29 July 1798), merchant, lawyer, and political leader, was born in Jamaica, Long Island (now Queens County, N.Y., and the Borough of Queens, New York City), the son of Samuel Smith and Elizabeth Bayles, farmers. Schooled at home, at an early age he became a store clerk in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, New York, then the most rapidly expanding region of the state. By the 1770s, known for his seriousness and wide reading, he had become a prosperous merchant and owner of many properties throughout the county (which included today’s Putnam County)....

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Wendell Willkie Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103648).

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Willkie, Wendell Lewis (18 February 1892–08 October 1944), corporation lawyer and executive, politician, and civil rights activist, was born in Elwood, Indiana, the son of Herman F. Willkie and Henrietta Trisch. His father was a lawyer and local reformer, and his mother was one of the first female lawyers in Indiana. Willkie attended local schools and Indiana University, graduating in 1913. After teaching high school in Kansas (Sept. 1913–Nov. 1914), he returned to Indiana University to complete a law degree in 1916....