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John Roy Lynch. Albumen silver print, c. 1883, by Charles Milton Bell. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Lynch, John Roy (10 September 1847–02 November 1939), U.S. congressman, historian, and attorney, was born on “Tacony” plantation near Vidalia, Louisiana, the son of Patrick Lynch, the manager of the plantation, and Catherine White, a slave. Patrick Lynch, an Irish immigrant, purchased his wife and two children, but in order to free them, existing state law required they leave Louisiana. Before Patrick Lynch died, he transferred the titles to his wife and children to a friend, William Deal, who promised to treat them as free persons. However, when Patrick Lynch died, Deal sold the family to a planter, Alfred W. Davis, in Natchez, Mississippi. When Davis learned of the conditions of the transfer to Deal, he agreed to allow Catherine Lynch to hire her own time while he honeymooned with his new wife in Europe. Under this arrangement, Catherine Lynch lived in Natchez, worked for various employers, and paid $3.50 a week to an agent of Davis, keeping whatever else she earned....

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Marshall, Humphrey (1760–26 June 1841), senator and historian of Kentucky, was born near Warrenton, Fauquier County, Virginia, the son of John Marshall and Mary Quisenberry, farmers. He received his education from family and private tutors at home and at the neighboring plantation of his uncle Thomas Marshall, the father of Chief Justice ...

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Miller, David Hunter (02 January 1875–21 July 1961), lawyer, State Department official, and historian, was born in New York City, the son of Walter Thomas Miller, a stockbroker and a member of the New York cotton exchange, and Christiana Wylie. He was educated in private and public schools in New York. Soon after the United States declared war with Spain, Miller enlisted in the Ninth New York Volunteers, serving in the army from May to November 1898. After his military service he began working in his father’s brokerage. In 1900 he married Sarah Whipple Simmons; they had no children. In 1904 he decided to prepare himself for a legal career and entered the New York Law School, where he earned an LL.B. in 1910 and an LL.M. the next year. Admitted to the New York bar, he began the general practice of law....

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Murphy, Henry Cruse (05 July 1810–01 December 1882), lawyer, U.S. congressman, and historical scholar, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of John G. Murphy, a skilled mechanic, and Clarissa Runyon. Murphy attended Columbia University, graduating in 1830, and studied law. In 1833 he married Amelia Greenwood; they had two children....

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van Heijenoort, Jean (23 July 1912–30 March 1986), logician, historian, and one-time revolutionary, was born Jean Louis Maxime van Heijenoort in Creil, France, the only child of Jean (Jan) Théodore Didier van Heijenoort, an émigré from Delft, Holland, who worked as an artisan, and Charlotte Hélène Balagny, a native of the region. After his father’s death at the beginning of World War I, Jean, who was only two, lived with his aunt while his mother worked as a domestic in a hotel. He grew up next to battlefields in wartime and in harsh postwar circumstances. As an adult he spoke of the profound effects of his father’s death and the deep unhappiness of his childhood. Education was his consolation. Recognized as brilliant by his primary school teachers in Creil, van Heijenoort was encouraged to take the scholarship examinations for the district secondary school in Clermont de l’Oise. Awarded a complete scholarship, from the age of eleven to eighteen he lived as a boarding student at the Collège of Clermont. After the unusual accomplishment of a double baccalaureate in philosophy and mathematics, he went on to the prestigious Lycée Saint Louis in Paris, where he specialized in mathematics....