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Bulkeley, Morgan Gardner (26 December 1837–06 November 1922), president of the Aetna Life Insurance Company, governor of Connecticut, and U.S. senator from Connecticut, was born in East Haddam, Connecticut, the son of Eliphalet Adams Bulkeley, a public official, Republican party leader, and founder of the Aetna Life Insurance Company, and Lydia S. Morgan Gardner....

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Bush, John Edward (15 November 1856–11 December 1916), businessman and politician, was born a slave in Moscow, Tennessee. In 1862 his master moved him and his mother to Arkansas to keep them from being freed when the Union army moved into western Tennessee. His mother died when Bush was only seven years old. He was educated in the freedmen’s and public schools of Little Rock and was considered a good student by his teachers. He paid his school tuition by molding bricks. In 1876 he graduated from high school with honors and was immediately appointed principal of Capital Hill School, a public institution for African Americans in Little Rock. In 1878 he moved to Hot Springs, where he was named to head that city’s African-American high school....

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Cohen, Walter L. (22 January 1860–29 December 1930), businessman and politician, was born a free person of color in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Bernard Cohen and Amelia Bingaman, a free woman of color. Although Cohen’s father was Jewish, he was raised as and remained throughout his life a Roman Catholic. His parents died when he was in the fourth grade, whereupon he had to quit school, though he later attended Straight University in New Orleans for several years. As a boy Cohen became a cigar maker and later worked in a saloon. His entrée into the world of politics came during the post–Civil War period of Reconstruction, when he worked as a page in the state legislature, then meeting in New Orleans. In the legislature, Cohen became acquainted with several influential black Republicans, among them, ...

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Douglas, Lewis Williams (02 July 1894–07 March 1974), businessman and government official, was born in Bisbee, Arizona, the son of James Stuart Douglas, a mine owner and banker, and Josephine Leah Williams. In 1906 he was sent east to be educated and subsequently attended the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York, the Montclair Military Academy in New Jersey, and Amherst College in Massachusetts, from which he graduated in 1916. In addition, he spent a year (1916–1917) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying geology and metallurgy. During World War I, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the field artillery and was a participant in the Argonne offensive of 1918. After the war, he took temporary positions as a history instructor at Amherst and a teacher of chemistry at the Hackley School but in 1921 decided to return to Arizona, where he became engaged in copper mining and citrus fruit growing near the town of Jerome. In 1921 he married Margaret “Peggy” Zinsser; they had three children....

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A. G. Gaston, 8 September 1963. Outside of his home in Birmingham, Ala., the same day it was torched in protest of his work in the Civil Rights Movement. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Gaston, A. G. (04 July 1892–19 January 1996), entrepreneur, was born Arthur George Gaston in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Tom Gaston, a railroad worker, and Rosa Gaston (maiden name unknown), a cook. He grew up in poverty in rural Alabama before he and his mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after his father's death. He attended, and for a good time resided at, Tuggle Institute, where he received a moral and industrial education. In 1910 he graduated from the school with a tenth grade certificate. Before and after graduation, he worked at a variety of part-time jobs, including selling subscriptions for the ...

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Kemper, James Scott (18 November 1886–17 September 1981), insurance executive and ambassador, was born in Van Wert, Ohio, the son of Hathaway Kemper, a prominent attorney, and Mary Jane Scott. After receiving his early education in the public schools of his hometown, he abandoned plans to attend Harvard and instead in 1905 became an office boy for a local insurance firm, the Central Manufacturers Insurance Company. Within two years he was named a special agent for Indiana and western Ohio, and in 1911 he moved to Chicago, Illinois, as the manager of the western department of the company. Leaving Central Manufacturers that same year, he joined Lumbermans & Manufacturers Insurance Company, where he also served as a manager....

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George W. Perkins Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99094).

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Perkins, George Walbridge (31 January 1862–18 June 1920), banker and political leader, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of George W. Perkins, a prison official, and Sarah Louise Mills. In 1872 his father left prison work to run an agency of the New York Life Insurance Company. George had only a grammar school education. In 1877 he began working for his father as an office boy, and by 1886 he had become agency cashier at $100 a month. In that year the elder Perkins died. George hoped to take over the agency, but the company considered him too young for the position and offered him a job as salesman. He accepted reluctantly but was a phenomenal success. Between February 1887 and the end of the year he sold nearly $3 million in policies in Kansas and Colorado. The company then made him district supervisor in charge of business in the Southwest....

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Seward, George Frederick (08 November 1840–28 November 1910), diplomat and business executive, was born in Florida, New York, the son of George Washington Seward and Tempe Wicke Leddell. George Frederick attended Seward Institute in his hometown and Union College in Schenectady, New York, but left before graduation to take charge of his family’s affairs. In 1861 his uncle, Secretary of State ...