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Baker, Howard Henry, Jr. (15 Nov. 1925–26 June 2014), politician and diplomat, was born in Huntsville, Tennessee, to Howard Henry Baker, Sr., a lawyer and politician who subsequently served in the US House of Representatives (1951–1964), and Dora Ladd Baker. The Baker family were staunch Presbyterians, members of the Republican Party since the Civil War, and longtime defenders of civil rights for the minority African American population. Young Baker’s paternal grandfather was a prominent judge, and his maternal grandmother was the first female sheriff in Tennessee....

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Barry, William Taylor (05 February 1784–30 August 1835), politician, jurist, and postmaster general, was born in Lunenburg County, Virginia, the son of John Barry, a revolutionary war veteran and farmer, and Susannah Dozier. The family moved to Kentucky, apparently in 1796, and settled in Fayette County. Following a course of study in law at William and Mary College, Barry was admitted to the Kentucky bar and set up practice in Lexington in 1805. That same year he married Lucy Waller Overton, with whom he would have two children before her premature death....

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Edward Bates. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1741).

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Bates, Edward (04 September 1793–25 March 1869), political leader and attorney general of the United States, was born in Goochland County, Virginia, the son of Thomas Fleming Bates, a planter and merchant, and Caroline Matilda Woodson. A Quaker, Thomas Bates was read out of meeting when he enlisted to fight in the Revolution, from which he emerged deeply in debt. Edward nevertheless grew up surrounded by slaves. After his father died in 1805, Edward received a good education at the home of his cousin Benjamin Bates in Hanover, Maryland, and then at Charlotte Hall Academy in St. Marys County, Maryland....

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Bentsen, Lloyd (11 February 1921–23 May 2006), U.S. senator, vice presidential nominee, and Treasury secretary, was born just north of the Mexican border in Mission, Texas, to Lloyd Bentsen, Sr., a pioneer in military aviation who became a prosperous rancher, land speculator, and banker, and Edna Ruth (Dolly) Colbath. The couple raised four children amid the citrus groves and cotton fields of the Rio Grande Valley and on the family’s expansive Arrowhead Ranch....

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Brown, Walter Folger (31 May 1869–26 January 1961), lawyer, politician, and government official, was born in Massillon, Ohio, the son of James Marshall Brown, a lawyer, and Lavinia Folger. Reared in comfortable circumstances, Brown graduated from Western Reserve Academy in 1888 and Harvard University in 1892, worked briefly for the ...

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Blanche Kelso Bruce. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2781).

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Bruce, Blanche Kelso (01 March 1841–17 March 1898), black political leader and U.S. senator during the Reconstruction era, was born in Farmville, Virginia, the son of Polly (surname unknown), a slave. The identity of his father is unknown, but he took the surname of the man who owned his mother before he was born. His childhood as a slave on a small plantation, first in Virginia, then briefly in Mississippi, and finally in Missouri did not significantly differ, as he later recalled, from that of the sons of whites. This relatively benign experience in slavery perhaps owed a great deal to the fact that he was a light-skinned mulatto and the favorite of a benevolent master and mistress. He shared a tutor with his master’s son and thus obtained the education that prepared him for later success. During the Civil War, despite the benevolence of his owner, he fled to freedom in Kansas, but after slavery was abolished he returned to Missouri where he reportedly established the first school in the state for blacks, at Hannibal....

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Calhoun, John (14 October 1806–13 October 1859), politician and territorial officeholder, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Andrew Calhoun, a successful merchant, and Martha Chamberlain. He spent his youth on a farm in Montgomery County, New York, to which his family had moved following his father’s retirement. After completing his studies at Canajoharie Academy, Calhoun turned to the study of law. Restless and looking for opportunity, he left home and family in 1830 and settled in Springfield, Illinois, where he continued his law study and taught school. He married Sarah Cutter the following year; they had nine children, seven of whom grew to adulthood....

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Cameron, Don (14 May 1833–30 August 1918), U.S. senator and political boss, was born James Donald Cameron in Middletown, Pennsylvania, the son of Simon Cameron, a politician and businessman, and Margaret Brua. After graduating from Princeton in 1852, Cameron worked as a clerk in the Bank of Middletown, established by his father, soon rising to the post of cashier and then president. As a result of his father’s mounting political ambitions, Don Cameron also took charge of the Northern Central Railroad, the so-called Cameron Road, serving as president of the company from 1863 until its absorption by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1874....

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Catron, Thomas Benton (06 October 1840–15 May 1921), U.S. senator and New Mexico territorial politician, was born near Lexington, Missouri, the son of John Catron and Mary Fletcher, farmers. Thomas Catron graduated from the University of Missouri in July 1860 and had just begun to read law when the Civil War broke out. Two months after Fort Sumter, he joined a Confederate infantry brigade that experienced frequent action throughout the war, including participation in the battle of Vicksburg....

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Salmon P. Chase. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1747).

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Chase, Salmon Portland (13 January 1808–07 May 1873), statesman, antislavery leader, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, the son of Ithamar Chase, a glassmaker and tavernkeeper, and Janette Ralston. When Chase was nine years old, his father died. To ease the financial burden on his mother, Chase, the eighth of eleven children, moved to Ohio and lived with his uncle ...

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Chipman, Nathaniel (15 November 1752–15 February 1843), jurist, U.S. senator, and conservative political leader, was born in Salisbury, Connecticut, the son of Samuel Chipman, a blacksmith and farmer, and Hannah Austin. Chipman entered Yale University in 1773. He joined the Continental army as an ensign during his senior year, in spring 1777, receiving his degree in absentia. Chipman was promoted to lieutenant during the winter at Valley Forge and was present at the battle of Monmouth in June 1778. In October Chipman resigned his commission to study law, complaining that an officer’s salary was insufficient to “support the character of a gentleman” (Chipman, p. 32). One of the first graduates of ...

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Howell Cobb. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110081).

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Cobb, Howell (07 September 1815–09 October 1868), lawyer and politician, was born at Cherry Hill in Jefferson County, Georgia, the son of John Addison Cobb, a planter, and Sarah Robinson (Rootes). Enrolling in Franklin College (now the University of Georgia) in Athens, Georgia, in 1829, he graduated in 1834. His college years were marked by his expulsion from school after participating in a riot to protest disciplinary action by the faculty for a minor infraction of leaving campus without permission; he was later readmitted. At the same time, they saw him first show signs of his strong Unionism, for he opposed the nullification movement in South Carolina. On 26 May 1835 he married Mary Ann Lamar; the couple had six children. With marriage Cobb acquired his wife’s sizable estate, including several cotton plantations and some 200 slaves....

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William H. Crawford. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97178).

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Crawford, William Harris (24 February 1772–15 September 1834), U.S. senator, cabinet member, and presidential candidate, was born in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Joel Crawford and Fanny Harris, farmers. In 1779 financial reverses led the Crawfords to move to the Edgefield District of South Carolina and four years later to Kiokee Creek, near Appling, Georgia. Joel Crawford valued education, and his children attended the field schools that served families in rural areas. After Joel’s death in 1788, young William Harris helped out on the farm while teaching at the field school he had recently attended. In 1794, at the age of twenty-two, Crawford enrolled for two years in ...

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Creighton, William (29 October 1778–01 October 1851), congressman and political leader in early Ohio, was born in Berkeley County, Virginia (now W.Va.), the son of William Creighton (his mother’s identity is unknown). Creighton graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1795, studied law in Martinsburg, Virginia (now W.Va.), and migrated to the Scioto Valley in the Northwest Territory in 1799. There he built a reputation as a lawyer and as a caustic opponent of popular rule in general and the territorial government in particular. Creighton was more interested in the economic development of the Scioto Valley than in social equality or political democracy; not surprisingly, this conservative Jeffersonian Republican became a stalwart Whig....

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Robert Carlos DeLarge. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98796).