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Raymond Pace Alexander At his desk in his law office, circa 1935-1940. Collections of the University of Pennsylvania Archives.

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Alexander, Raymond Pace (13 October 1898–24 November 1974), lawyer, judge, and civil rights leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the third son of Hillard Boone and Virginia Pace Alexander, both slaves in Virginia who were freed in 1865 and migrated to Philadelphia in 1880. His background was working-class poor and he grew up in Philadelphia's seventh ward, an all-black community made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal study ...

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Baker, Harvey Humphrey (11 April 1869–10 April 1915), juvenile court judge, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of James Baker, a merchant, and Harriet M. Humphrey. The child of a prosperous New England family with deep roots in the region, Baker did his college preparatory work at the Roxbury Latin School before entering Harvard University, where his scholarship earned him an A.B. in political science with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1891. In college he worked as a friendly visitor for the Boston Children’s Aid Society and continued to do so while attending Harvard Law School. He received his law degree and a master’s in 1894, commenced the practice of law, and shortly thereafter began a lifelong connection with the Brookline law firm (later known as) Hayes, Williams, Baker & Hersey. Baker spent his first year clerking in the township’s police court and then served as a special justice from 1895 until 1906, when Massachusetts governor Curtis Guild selected him to become the first judge of the newly created Boston juvenile court....

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Chafee, Zechariah, Jr. (07 December 1885–08 February 1957), professor of law and civil libertarian, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Zechariah Chafee, an industrialist, and Mary Dexter Sharpe. For generations his father’s family owned and ran the Builders Iron Foundry, and his mother’s family owned the Brown and Sharpe Manufacturing Company. Chafee attended Brown University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1907. For three years he worked at the family foundry but discovered that he was temperamentally unsuited to the life of an industrialist. He entered Harvard Law School in 1910 and again showed intellectual prowess by graduating at the top of his class in 1913. In 1912 he married Bess Frank Searle; they had four children. Chafee practiced at a law firm in Providence until 1916 when he joined the Harvard Law School faculty, where he would remain until his retirement in 1956. He was made a full professor in 1919, eventually occupied the prestigious Langdell Chair, and became a University Professor in 1950....

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Dargan, Edmund S. (15 April 1805–24 November 1879), legislator and judge, was born near Wadesboro, in Montgomery County, North Carolina, the son of a Baptist minister, whose given name is unknown, and a woman whose maiden name was Lilly. Dargan’s full middle name is listed in a number of sources as either Strother or Spawn. His father died when Dargan was very young. There was no adequate estate, and to earn a livelihood he became an agricultural laborer. Dargan was a self-educated young man who studied the law in typical nineteenth-century fashion, in the law office of a local practitioner in Wadesboro. After a year of study he was admitted in 1829 to the North Carolina bar. The following year he walked to Alabama, where he settled in Washington in Autauga County. He was admitted to the Alabama bar and served as a justice of the peace in Autauga County for a number of years....

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Doster, Frank (19 January 1847–25 February 1933), jurist and reform advocate, was born in Morgan County, Virginia (now W.Va.), the son of Alfred Doster and Rachel Doyle, farmers. The family moved to Clinton County, Indiana, in 1848. In early 1864, while still a teenager, Doster joined the Eleventh Indiana Cavalry in the Civil War, seeing much action in Tennessee and Mississippi. After the war, his regiment patrolled the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas in 1865. Mustered out as a corporal in the fall of that year, he returned to Indiana, where he studied at Thornton Academy and attended, but did not graduate from, Benton Law Institute and the state university. In 1870 he moved to Monticello, Illinois, was admitted to the state bar, and married Caroline Riddle. They had seven children, five of whom survived to adulthood....

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William Hastie. With an unidentified woman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94041).

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Hastie, William Henry (17 November 1904–14 April 1976), civil rights attorney, law school professor, and federal judge, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Roberta Childs, a teacher, and William Henry Hastie, a clerk in the U.S. Pension Office (now the Veterans Administration). He was a superb student and athlete. His father’s transfer to Washington, D.C., in 1916 permitted Hastie to attend the nation’s best black secondary school, the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, from which he graduated as valedictorian in 1921. He attended Amherst College, where he majored in mathematics and graduated in 1925, valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa, and magna cum laude. After teaching for two years in Bordentown, New Jersey, he studied law at Harvard University, where one instructor adopted the custom of saying after asking a question of the class, “Mr. Hastie, give them the answer” (Ware, p. 30). He worked on the ...

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Hastings, Serranus Clinton (22 November 1814–18 February 1893), jurist, politician, educational philanthropist, and real estate magnate, was born near Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, the son of Robert Collins Hastings, a farmer, and Patience Brayton, who was from an early settler family in western New York. Robert Hastings, a Bostonian, saw action in the War of 1812 as a militia officer during the several attacks on the U.S. Naval Station at Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario. Serranus attended Gouverneur Academy for six years, taught by graduates of the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution in a strenuously moral classicism acceptable to Baptist tenets. He instituted that learning, aged twenty, as principal of the Norwich Academy, Chenango, New York. Within a year, however, he began the westward trek that brought him first to Lawrenceburg, southeastern Indiana, in 1835, to study law with two prominent lawyers there, meanwhile editing the ...

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Higginbotham, A. Leon, Jr. (25 February 1928–14 December 1998), jurist and civil rights leader, was born Aloysius Leon Higginbotham in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Aloysius Leon Higginbotham, Sr., a laborer, and Emma Lee Douglass Higginbotham, a domestic worker. While he was attending a racially segregated elementary school, his mother insisted that he receive tutoring in Latin, a required subject denied to black students; he then became the first African American to enroll at Trenton's Central High School. Initially interested in engineering, he enrolled at Purdue University only to leave in disgust after the school's president denied his request to move on-campus with his fellow African-American students. He completed his undergraduate education at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he received a B.A. in sociology in 1949. In August 1948 he married Jeanne L. Foster; the couple had three children. Angered by his experiences at Purdue and inspired by the example of Supreme Court Justice ...

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Charles Hamilton Houston. Oil on canvas, 1943-1944, by Betsy Graves Reyneau. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Harmon Foundation.

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Houston, Charles Hamilton (03 September 1895–22 April 1950), lawyer and professor, was born in the District of Columbia, the son of William LePre Houston, a lawyer, and Mary Ethel Hamilton, a hairdresser and former schoolteacher. Houston graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College in 1915. After a year of teaching English at Howard University in Washington, D.C., he served during World War I as a second lieutenant in the 351st Field Artillery of the American Expeditionary Forces. Having experienced racial discrimination while serving his country, Houston “made up [his] mind that [he] would never get caught … without knowing … [his] rights, that [he] would study law and use [his] time fighting for men who could not strike back.” He entered Harvard Law School in 1919, where he became the first African American elected as an editor of the ...

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Lindsey, Ben B. (25 November 1869–26 March 1943), reformer and controversial Denver juvenile court founder, was born Benjamin Barr Lindsey in Jackson, Tennessee, the son of Landy Tunstall Lindsey, a former Confederate captain, and Letitia Barr, whose father owned a large plantation in Jackson. Lindsey’s childhood on the Barr family plantation was carefree, marred only by his father’s restlessness. A “rather moody and erratic character” (Larsen, p. 10), the elder Lindsey shocked the Barrs by converting his family from Episcopalianism to Catholicism when Ben was five. Increased tension on the Barr plantation caused Ben’s father to pursue a livelihood away from Jackson, as a telegrapher with the Denver and South Park Railroad. Ben was eleven when he and his brother joined his parents in Denver in 1880....

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Lumpkin, Joseph Henry (23 December 1799–04 June 1867), jurist and reformer, was born near Lexington in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, the son of John H. Lumpkin and Lucy Hopson, planters. At age seventeen Lumpkin entered the University of Georgia, but because the school soon fell on hard times he left to complete his studies at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), where he graduated with honors in 1819. Afterward he returned to Oglethorpe County, where he studied law with Judge Thomas W. Cobb, established a law practice in Lexington in 1820, and married Callendar Cunningham Grieve, a native of Scotland, in 1821. Over the next several years, Lumpkin made a name for himself as a talented lawyer and an exceptional orator. He served a single term in the Georgia General Assembly in 1824–1825, founded a literary and oratorical society at the University of Georgia in 1825, and helped rewrite his state’s penal code in 1833....

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Matthews, Burnita Shelton (28 December 1894–25 April 1988), women's rights activist and the first woman federal trial judge, women’s rights activist and the first woman federal trial judge, was born in Copiah County, Mississippi, the daughter of Burnell Shelton, a plantation owner and county official, and Lora Drew Barlow. The only girl in a family of five children, Matthews aspired to follow her older brother to law school, but when her mother died when she was sixteen her father sent her to study piano and voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He said he thought she would be “happier doing what women did down there in Mississippi.” For a few years she supported herself by teaching music in public schools in Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi, and in 1917 she married her high school sweetheart, Percy Ashley Matthews, now a Washington lawyer; the couple did not have children....

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Proskauer, Joseph Meyer (06 August 1877–11 September 1971), judge, political adviser, and Jewish communal leader, was born in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Alfred Proskauer, a bank cashier, and Rebecca Leinkauf. Born into a southern Jewish family of German and Hungarian descent, Proskauer was educated at Columbia College (B.A., 1896) and Columbia Law School (LL.B., 1899) and began practicing law in New York City in partnership with college friend James Rosenberg in 1900. Two years later both men entered the well-known firm of James, Schell & Elkus, which eventually became Elkus, Gleason & Proskauer. In 1903 Proskauer married Alice Naumburg. ...

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Pynchon, William (26 December 1590–29 October 1662), fur trader, magistrate, and founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, was born at Springfield, in Essex, England, the son of John Pynchon and Frances Brett, wealthy gentry. William was educated to read and write Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and served as a warden of Christ Church from 1620 to 1624. Like many members of his class, he supported the Puritans. In 1629 Pynchon invested £25 in the Massachusetts Bay Company and the following year accompanied Governor ...

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Ransom, Leon Andrew (06 August 1899–25 August 1954), lawyer and educator, was born in Zanesville, Ohio, the son of Charles Andrew Ransom, a janitor who later ran a stable, and Nora Belle Lee. He attended Ohio State University for a year (1917–1918), joined the army during World War I (1918), and graduated from Wilberforce University (1920). After five years (1920–1925) working as a dining car waiter and in real estate in Chicago, where he served as assistant executive secretary of the Spring Street Branch of the YMCA, he decided to go to law school. His widow later recounted that he became a lawyer as “a form of protest” against the racial discrimination he saw all around him in Chicago. He earned a law degree with honors at Ohio State University (J.D., 1927). In 1924 he married Willa C. Carter; they had two children. In religion he was African Methodist Episcopalian; in politics he was an active Republican and then an Independent. “Andy” Ransom’s easygoing demeanor belied his commitment to racial progress....

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Sewall, Samuel (28 March 1652–01 January 1730), colonial merchant, judge, and philanthropist, was born at Bishop Stoke, Hampshire, England, the son of Henry Sewall, a pastor, and Jane Dummer. Sewall’s father had immigrated to Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1634, and although he was admitted to freemanship in 1637, he returned to England in 1646 and subsequently took the pulpit of North Baddesley. The family returned to Massachusetts in 1659....

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Tourgée, Albion Winegar (02 May 1838–21 May 1905), activist, judge, and author, was born in Williamsfield, Ohio, the son of Valentine Tourgée and Louisa Emma Winegar, farmers. His mother died when Tourgée was five. He grew up both in Kingsville, Ohio, in the Western Reserve, a center of antislavery sentiment, and in Lee, Massachusetts, where he spent two years with an uncle....