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Ellis, Powhatan (17 January 1790–18 March 1863), jurist, politician, and foreign minister, was born at Red Hill plantation in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Josiah Ellis and Jane Shelton. Powhatan’s lineage can be traced backed to 17th-century Virginia; despite his assertions to the contrary, however, there is no evidence that he was related to the Indian leader for whom he was named....

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Ferguson, Homer (25 February 1889–17 December 1982), U.S. senator, ambassador, and judge, was born in Harrison City, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Ferguson, a coal mine supervisor, and Margarete Bush. At the age of fifteen Ferguson took his first job, working in the local coal mines. He attended the University of Pittsburgh from 1910 to 1911 and in 1913 received a law degree from the University of Michigan. In 1913 Ferguson married Myrtle Jones, was admitted to the bar, and began practicing law in Detroit, Michigan. He had one child. He continued in private practice until 1929, teaching night school to supplement his income....

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Kenneth B. Keating Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110565).

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Keating, Kenneth Barnard (18 May 1900–05 May 1975), congressman, senator, ambassador, and judge, was born in Lima, New York, the son of Thomas Mosgrove Keating, a local businessman, and Louise Barnard, a schoolteacher. Much of Keating’s early education was at Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in Lima, New York. He then attended the University of Rochester (N.Y.), from which he graduated in 1919, and Harvard Law School, which granted him an LL.B. in 1923. From that date until he entered the U.S. Congress in 1947 Keating was active in the law firm of Harris, Beach, Wilcox and Dale, earning a reputation as an adroit trial lawyer. In 1928 Keating married Louise Depuy; they had one daughter....

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Nelson, Hugh (30 September 1768–18 March 1836), congressman, diplomat, and jurist, was born in Yorktown, Virginia, the son of Thomas Nelson, a merchant and governor of Virginia, and Lucy Grymes. The great event of his childhood was the American Revolution, in which his father played a prominent role. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1790 and shortly thereafter moved to Albemarle County, Virginia. Nelson married Eliza Kinloch in 1799; they had nine children who survived to maturity. Nelson and his family lived at “Belvoir,” an Albemarle County estate acquired from his father-in-law....

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Taft, Alphonso (05 November 1810–21 May 1891), judge, U.S. attorney general, and diplomat, was born in Townshend, Vermont, the son of Peter Rawson Taft, a farmer and lawyer, and Sylvia Howard. Taft was educated at county schools until he was sixteen. He then taught high school in order to attend Amherst Academy. He received a bachelor’s degree from Yale College in 1833, graduating third in his class, and after several more years of teaching high school he returned to Yale Law School. He received a J.D. in 1838 and was admitted that year to the bar of Connecticut....