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Corcoran, Thomas Gardiner (29 December 1900–06 December 1981), government official and presidential adviser, was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, into an affluent, teetotaling, self-consciously “lace-curtain” Irish family. His father, Patrick, was a Democrat who served briefly in the Rhode Island legislature; his mother, Mary O’Keefe, was from a prosperous Republican family that looked with some contempt on the “cheap” political activities of the “damned Shanty Irish.” In his youth, at least, Corcoran shared something of his mother’s distaste for “politicians,” if not for politics, and ultimately he brought to his own public career a conviction that, while elected officials were necessary, the best sources of public wisdom were intelligent, highly educated administrators like (he chose to believe) himself....

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Grundy, Joseph Ridgway (13 January 1863–03 March 1961), business leader, lobbyist, and senator, was born in Camden, New Jersey, the son of William Hulme Grundy, a woolens manufacturer, and Mary Lamb Ridgway. Reared in an upper-class Quaker home in Bristol, Pennsylvania, he received a part of his early education at the Moravian School for Boys (Lititz, Pa.) and subsequently spent three years at Swarthmore College (two in its preparatory division). In 1880 he made a grand tour of Europe and after his return began work for his father’s company. In 1885, after working in each of the mill’s operations, he became a wool buyer. Following his father’s death in 1893, he became the company’s head and also the principal stockholder in the Farmers National Bank of Bucks County, originally founded by his great-great-grandfather. Under his leadership, Grundy and Company prospered, soon making him a multimillionaire. He never married....

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Marcus Alonzo Hanna. Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103995 ).

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Hanna, Marcus Alonzo (24 September 1837–15 February 1904), businessman, presidential campaign manager, and U.S. senator, known as Mark Hanna, was born above his family’s grocery store in New Lisbon, Ohio, the son of Samantha Converse, a schoolteacher, and Leonard Hanna, who practiced medicine before joining his father and brothers in the grocery business. A proposed canal to link New Lisbon to the Ohio River failed, wiping out Hanna’s grandfather’s investment and pushing the town into commercial decline. Hanna’s father established a new wholesale grocery and shipping business in Cleveland, where he moved his family in 1852. Mark Hanna attended public schools and Western Reserve College, leaving college after getting caught in a student prank. As a traveling salesman for the family business, the gregarious Hanna proved a resourceful competitor. Elected second lieutenant in a Cleveland-based infantry in 1861, he instead became managing partner of the business following his father’s illness and December 1862 death. Called to defend Washington, D.C., during the summer of 1864, he served briefly in uniform but saw no combat....

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Harry L. Hopkins. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102021).

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Hopkins, Harry Lloyd (17 August 1890–29 January 1946), New Deal administrator and presidential adviser, was born in Sioux City, Iowa, the son of David Aldona Hopkins, a salesman and merchant, and Anna Picket. Hopkins grew up in modest circumstances. The family moved frequently during his youth and in 1901 settled in Grinnell, Iowa. He attended Grinnell College, where he was instilled with social ideals and Progressive political values of honest government, public service by experts, and aid to the “deserving” poor. After graduating in 1912 he entered social work in New York City. The next year he married Ethel Gross, a social worker. They had three sons. A daughter died in infancy....

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Richard G. Kleindienst. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Kleindienst, Richard G. (05 August 1923–03 February 2000), government official, was born Richard Gordon Kleindienst on a farm near Winslow, Arizona, the son of Alfred R. Kleindienst, a railroad brakeman and local postmaster, and Gladys Love Kleindienst. His mother died when he was still a young boy, and his father hired a Navajo woman to serve as housekeeper for the family. She taught him the Navajo language, in which he became exceptionally proficient. Kleindienst later said that the diversified racial composition of Winslow—more Indians, Mexicans, and Asians than whites—gave him important lessons in respect for the rights of all human beings....

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Komer, Robert William (23 Feb. 1922–9 Apr. 2000), national security strategist, federal government official, and presidential advisor, was born in Chicago but raised in Clayton, Missouri. He was the first of two children born to Nathan Adolph and Stella Deiches Komer. His father was president of a small manufacturing firm, Lockwoven Company, which specialized in burial garments and funeral supplies. As a child, Komer was precocious. Completing Clayton High School at sixteen, he entered Harvard after two years at Washington University in St. Louis. He was an outstanding student, graduating in ...

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Walker, Frank Comerford (30 May 1886–13 September 1959), politician, postmaster general, and businessman, was born in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, the son of David Walker, an independent copper mine operator, and Ellen Comerford. When Walker was three years old the family moved to Butte, Montana, then a center of mining activities and Irish-American life in the West. Young Frank was affected deeply by his mother’s religious faith, and he remained a devout Catholic all of his life. He was educated in local parochial schools, attended Gonzaga University, and earned his law degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1909....

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Warburg, James Paul (18 August 1896–03 June 1969), financier, government official and presidential confidant, and political writer, was born in Hamburg, Germany, the son of Paul Moritz Warburg, a banker, and Nina Jenny Loeb. James Warburg was settled with his family in the United States in 1901 and naturalized in 1911 along with his eminent father, a brilliant financier. If Paul Warburg embodied the classic reserve and discipline of the fin de siècle German-Jewish elite, the rebellious and impetuous James seemed equally and defiantly proud of the free-wheeling American style that would be his trademark. A brilliant student, James attended private elementary schools in New York City, the Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, and Harvard, where he finished his B.A. in three years, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1916....

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Yarmolinsky, Adam (17 November 1922–05 January 2000), public policymaker in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, public policymaker in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, was born in New York City, the oldest of two sons of Avrahm Yarmolinsky, a Russian émigré and scholar of Slavonic literature, and ...

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Ziegler, Ronald Lewis (12 May 1939–10 February 2003), press secretary to Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, press secretary to Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, was born in Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, to Louis Daniel Ziegler, a metal company production manager, and Ruby Parsons Ziegler, a public health nurse. At six feet, 190 pounds, “Zig” was a solidly built fullback at Dixie Heights High School, and he received a football scholarship to Xavier University in Cincinnati....