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Alexander, Will Winton (15 July 1884–13 January 1956), leading southern liberal, expert on race relations, and member of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal administration, leading southern liberal, expert on race relations, and member of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal administration, was born near Morrisville, Missouri, the son of William Baxter Alexander, a farmer, and Arabella A. Winton, a schoolteacher. Alexander received a B.A. from Scarritt-Morrisville College in 1908 and continued his studies at Vanderbilt University, where he received a Bachelor of Divinity in 1912. Ordained a Methodist minister in 1911, Alexander held pastorates at Nashville (1911–1916) and Murfreesboro, Tennessee (1916–1917). In 1914 he married Mabelle A. Kinkead; they had three sons....

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Fisher Ames. Oil on wood, c. 1807, by Gilbert Stuart. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George Cabot Lodge.

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Ames, Fisher (09 April 1758–04 July 1808), Federalist party leader, member of Congress, essayist, and renowned orator, was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Ames, Sr., a physician, tavern keeper, and almanac writer, and Deborah Fisher. Intellectually honed, Ames was admitted to Harvard at twelve. Steeped in the classics, he excelled in elocution and participated in a debating club, the Institute of 1770. Graduating in 1774, he served with the Dedham militia at the time of the battle of Bunker Hill but did not see combat. At home he pursued his scholarly interests, reading widely in classical literature and history. He also occasionally taught school. Under the tutelage of the prominent ...

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Victor Berger. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100903).

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Berger, Victor Louis (28 February 1860–07 August 1929), a founder and leader of the Socialist Party of America and a U.S. congressman, was born in the Nieder-Rehbach region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Romania) to Ignatz Berger and his wife, Julia (maiden name unknown), innkeepers. Berger attended the Universities of Vienna and Budapest for two years. His family suffered economic reversals and in 1878 emigrated to Bridgeport, Connecticut. In 1881 Berger settled in Milwaukee, where he taught school. In the heavily Germanic city he emerged as a leader, initially through the ...

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Bruce, William Cabell (12 March 1860–09 May 1946), author, municipal politician, reformer, and U.S. senator, was born at “Staunton Hill,” his father’s plantation, in Charlotte County, Virginia, the son of Charles Bruce, a planter, Virginia state senator, and captain during the Civil War, and Sarah Alexander Seddon, both members of established, affluent families in Virginia. Although the Bruce family lost much of their wealth during the Civil War, William still grew up surrounded by maids, servants, tailors, and tutors. Bruce’s mother, a devout Christian, instilled in William strong religious beliefs that influenced his character throughout his formative years....

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Homer Cummings. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90035).

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Cummings, Homer Stillé (30 April 1870–10 September 1956), attorney, Democratic party leader, and attorney general of the United States, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Uriah C. Cummings, a businessman, and Audie Schuyler Stillé. Educated at the Heathcote School in upstate New York, the Sheffield School of Engineering of Yale University, and the Yale Law School, from which he graduated in 1893, Cummings opened a legal practice in Stamford, Connecticut, soon thereafter and formed a partnership with Charles D. Lockwood that lasted until he joined the ...

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Elliott, Harriet Wiseman (10 July 1884–06 August 1947), educator, political organizer, and government official, was born in Carbondale, Illinois, the daughter of Allan Curtis Elliott, a merchant who extended easy credit to poor coal miners, and Elizabeth Ann White, a staunch supporter of ...

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James Farley. Second row, left, with other members of the Roosevelt administration. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96634).

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Farley, James Aloysius (30 May 1888–09 June 1976), chairman of the Democratic National Committee and postmaster general of the United States in the first two administrations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and postmaster general of the United States in the first two administrations of ...

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Hicks, Louise (16 October 1916–21 October 2003), politician, antibusing activist, and U.S. representative, was born Anna Louise Day in South Boston, Massachusetts, the third child and only daughter of William J. Day and Anna McCarron Day. Her father, a judge of the South Boston District Court and a successful lawyer, banker, and real estate investor, was one of South Boston’s most prominent citizens; her mother died when she was fourteen years old. Raised as a Roman Catholic, Louise graduated from the Nazareth School and studied home economics at Simmons College before earning an education degree at the Wheelock School in 1938. For two years she taught in the Brookline public schools, then she became a clerk in her father’s law office. She married John Hicks, an engineer, in 1942, and had two sons....

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Edward Moore (Ted) Kennedy. Acrylic on canvas, 1962, by René Robert Bouché. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine.

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Kennedy, Edward Moore (Ted) (22 February 1932–25 August 2009), U.S. senator and advocate for liberal reform, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the ninth and last child of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy and Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr., a banker, investor, and American ambassador to Great Britain. His dynasty-building father held high expectations for his children and established trust funds that would provide them with the financial security and freedom to pursue public service. As the baby brother, Kennedy spent his childhood catching up with his siblings in a highly competitive, politically oriented Irish Catholic family that turned everything into a contest, whether it was sailing, playing touch football, or getting attention at the dinner table. Kennedy later attributed his habit of copious research and preparation for legislation as a senator to the standards his father set for table talk....

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Lowenstein, Allard Kenneth (16 January 1929–14 March 1980), lawyer, congressman, and political agitator, was born Allard Augustus Lowenstein in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Gabriel Abraham Lowenstein, a medical school teacher who turned restaurateur, and Augusta Goldberg. Lowenstein later chose Kenneth to replace Augustus, his given middle name. Only a year old when his mother died he was not told at first that his stepmother was not his birth mother, which he discovered when he was thirteen. In 1945 Lowenstein graduated from Horace Mann School in New York City and four years later graduated from the University of North Carolina. At North Carolina he succeeded in ending the practice of pairing Jewish students as roommates and gained them access to campus fraternities, and when the student state legislature met in Chapel Hill in December 1945 he got a resolution passed opening it up to black participation. Becoming a powerful personality on campus, Lowenstein found a hero and friend in the school’s president, ...

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Vito Marcantonio Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109679).

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Marcantonio, Vito Anthony (10 December 1902–09 August 1954), radical political figure and congressman, was born in East Harlem, New York City, the son of Sanario “Samuel” Marcantonio, an American-born carpenter, and Angelina deDobitis, a native of Italy. Though his father’s skills allowed a relatively comfortable existence, Marcantonio imbibed radical politics at DeWitt Clinton High School from his history teacher, a one-time Socialist candidate for Congress and teachers’ union organizer. Marcantonio organized a neighborhood rent strike while still a teenager and in 1921 was introduced to a kindred spirit, the president of the city’s board of aldermen, ...

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Ruth Hanna McCormick. With her children Katrina and John. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-108593).

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McCormick, Ruth Hanna (27 March 1880–31 December 1944), congresswoman and political leader, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Marcus Alonzo “Mark” Hanna, a businessman and politician, and Charlotte Augusta Rhodes. In 1896 Mark Hanna, Republican national chairman, managed William McKinley’s presidential campaign, in which Ruth participated. Hanna was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1897, and Ruth worked as his private secretary on Capitol Hill. Her marriage in 1903 to ...

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Niles, David K. (23 November 1890–28 September 1952), liberal activist and government official, was born David K. Neyhus in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants Asher Kohen Neyhus, a tailor, and Sophie Berlin. Although he never legally changed his name, he probably began using the name “Niles” when he entered politics. Niles graduated from Boston Latin School but was too poor to go to college. Instead, he went to work in a department store. In search of intellectual stimulation, Niles began to attend Sunday lectures at Boston’s Ford Hall Forum. There he attracted the attention of its director, George W. Coleman, who invited the young man to become his assistant. During World War I, Coleman went to Washington to run the Information Office of the U.S. Department of Labor and took Niles along as an aide. Afterward Niles resumed his affiliation with the Ford Hall Forum, which he eventually headed....