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Cromwell, John Wesley (05 September 1846–14 April 1927), lawyer and historian, was born a slave in Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of Willis Hodges Cromwell, a ferry operator, and Elizabeth Carney. In 1851 Cromwell’s father purchased the family’s freedom and moved to West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Cromwell entered the public schools. In 1856 he was admitted to the Preparatory Department of the Institute of Colored Youth. Graduating in 1864, he embarked on a teaching career. He taught in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and in 1865 opened a private school in Portsmouth, Virginia. Cromwell left teaching temporarily after an assault in which he was shot at and his school burned down. He returned to Philadelphia and was employed by the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Intellectual Improvement of Colored People. Then he served as an agent for the American Missionary Association and went back to Virginia. He became active in local politics, serving as a delegate to the first Republican convention in Richmond in 1867....

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Drake, Benjamin (1795?–01 April 1841), writer and lawyer, was born in Mays Lick, Kentucky, the son of Isaac Drake and Elizabeth Shotwell, poor homesteaders who had emigrated from Plainfield, New Jersey, in 1788. (Edward Mansfield, a close friend of the family, writes that Drake was born in 1795, but Drake’s birthdate appears in some other sources as 22 November 1794). By the time Drake was born, his parents had managed to secure a freehold title of 200 acres, where they raised sheep, corn, and wheat. Like that of many farmer’s children, Drake’s early schooling was crude, and his father owned only a handful of books, including a Bible, Dilworth's and ...

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Fisher, Sydney George (11 September 1856–22 February 1927), lawyer and historian, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Sidney George Fisher and Elizabeth Ingersoll. His father, a prominent Philadelphia attorney, was active in public affairs and contributed numerous essays to the popular press on political and constitutional issues....

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Haywood, John (16 March 1762–22 December 1826), lawyer and historian, was born in Halifax County, North Carolina, the son of Egbert Haywood, a tobacco farmer, and Sarah Ware. Following a brief education at a local academy, he volunteered for service in the revolutionary war and became an aide to a North Carolina officer. Self-taught in law, he was admitted to the Halifax bar soon after the Revolution. Quickly distinguishing himself in legal contests with talented opponents including ...

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Kohler, Max James (22 May 1871–24 July 1934), jurist, historian, and Jewish communal worker, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Kaufmann Kohler and Johanna Einhorn. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Germany, and both his father and grandfather, David Einhorn, were leading rabbis of the Reform Movement in American Judaism. Upon the death of Kohler’s grandfather in 1879, his father assumed Einhorn’s pulpit at New York’s Congregation Beth El, and the family moved to that city. There he grew up in an atmosphere infused with a devotion to both religious values and scholarly pursuits. After completing high school, Kohler attended the College of the City of New York, where he won several important literary prizes. Following his graduation in 1890, he entered Columbia University, from which he received both M.A. (1891) and LL.B. (1893) degrees. He was admitted to the New York State bar in 1893 and became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, resigning after four years to start a private law practice. In 1906 he married Winifred Lichtenauer, who died in 1922. No children resulted from the marriage....

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John Roy Lynch. Albumen silver print, c. 1883, by Charles Milton Bell. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Lynch, John Roy (10 September 1847–02 November 1939), U.S. congressman, historian, and attorney, was born on “Tacony” plantation near Vidalia, Louisiana, the son of Patrick Lynch, the manager of the plantation, and Catherine White, a slave. Patrick Lynch, an Irish immigrant, purchased his wife and two children, but in order to free them, existing state law required they leave Louisiana. Before Patrick Lynch died, he transferred the titles to his wife and children to a friend, William Deal, who promised to treat them as free persons. However, when Patrick Lynch died, Deal sold the family to a planter, Alfred W. Davis, in Natchez, Mississippi. When Davis learned of the conditions of the transfer to Deal, he agreed to allow Catherine Lynch to hire her own time while he honeymooned with his new wife in Europe. Under this arrangement, Catherine Lynch lived in Natchez, worked for various employers, and paid $3.50 a week to an agent of Davis, keeping whatever else she earned....

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Miller, David Hunter (02 January 1875–21 July 1961), lawyer, State Department official, and historian, was born in New York City, the son of Walter Thomas Miller, a stockbroker and a member of the New York cotton exchange, and Christiana Wylie. He was educated in private and public schools in New York. Soon after the United States declared war with Spain, Miller enlisted in the Ninth New York Volunteers, serving in the army from May to November 1898. After his military service he began working in his father’s brokerage. In 1900 he married Sarah Whipple Simmons; they had no children. In 1904 he decided to prepare himself for a legal career and entered the New York Law School, where he earned an LL.B. in 1910 and an LL.M. the next year. Admitted to the New York bar, he began the general practice of law....

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Murphy, Henry Cruse (05 July 1810–01 December 1882), lawyer, U.S. congressman, and historical scholar, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of John G. Murphy, a skilled mechanic, and Clarissa Runyon. Murphy attended Columbia University, graduating in 1830, and studied law. In 1833 he married Amelia Greenwood; they had two children....

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Robinson, Conway (15 September 1805–30 January 1884), lawyer, historian, and author, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of John Robinson, a respected local superior court clerk, and Agnes Conway Moncure. Educated in local schools, Conway was the only one of his father’s six sons not to attend college. Instead, he followed in John Robinson’s footsteps and was apprenticed at age fourteen to Thomas C. Howard, clerk of the Richmond City Hustings Court. In 1826 Conway Robinson himself became deputy clerk of the Virginia general court and in the same year published an updated edition of ...

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Telford Taylor. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Taylor, Telford (24 February 1908–23 May 1998), attorney and prosecutor, was born in Schenectady, New York, to John Bellamy Taylor, an electrical engineer, and Marcia Estabrook Jones Taylor, both of whom were descendants of seventeenth-century New England colonists. Young Telford attended local public and private schools and received his undergraduate education at Williams College, receiving his B.A. degree in political science in 1928. He remained at Williams as an instructor for a year after graduation and then entered Harvard Law School in the fall of 1929. An outstanding student in law school, he was appointed to the staff of the ...