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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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DeSilver, Albert (03 August 1888–07 December 1924), civil liberties leader and lawyer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Carll Harrison DeSilver, a stockbroker and art patron, and Mary Henrietta Block. He attended private schools in Brooklyn and Connecticut and was graduated in 1910 from Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones and the editorial board of the ...

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Foltz, Clara Shortridge (16 July 1849–02 September 1934), first woman lawyer on the Pacific Coast, suffrage leader, and founder of the public defender movement, was born in Lafayette, Indiana, the only daughter of Elias Shortridge and Talitha Harwood. Trained as a lawyer, Elias Shortridge turned instead to preaching among the Disciples of Christ and in 1860 became pastor to a well-established church in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. For a few years, Clara attended the progressive Howe’s Academy until her father was expelled from his congregation for unorthodoxy. She then became a teacher herself in nearby Illinois before eloping—at the age of fifteen—with a handsome Union soldier, Jeremiah Foltz. During hard years on an Iowa farm, she bore four children....

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Norman Dorsen and Sarah Barringer Gordon

Hays, Arthur Garfield (12 December 1881–14 December 1954), lawyer and author, was born in Rochester, New York, to Isaac Hays and Laura Garson, both members of prosperous families in the clothing trade. When Hays was twelve the family moved to New York City, where, with brief exceptions he lived throughout his life....

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Korematsu, Fred (30 Jan. 1919–30 March 2005), prisoner of incarceration camps for Japanese Americans during World War II and civil liberties activist, was born in Oakland, California, the third of four sons of Kakusaburo Korematsu and Kotsui Aoki, immigrants from Japan who owned a flower nursery where the family worked. Korematsu’s given name was Toyosaburo, but when one of his elementary school teachers could not pronounce his first name, she asked to call him “Fred.” He used that name throughout his life. He attended public schools in Oakland, graduating from Castlemont High School, and was involved in the Boy Scouts and the San Lorenzo Japanese Holiness Church as a youth....

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McWilliams, Carey (13 December 1905–27 June 1980), activist attorney, writer, and editor, was born in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the son of Jerry McWilliams, a cattle rancher, and Harriet Casley. He entered the University of Southern California in 1922 and pursued a liberal arts curriculum but apparently was permitted to enroll in the university’s law school without receiving a B.A. To say that McWilliams was educated in southern California means not merely that he received a J.D. from USC in 1927 but rather, and more importantly, that he learned about the particular injustices that characterized the region in which he lived and committed himself to seeking radical change in those aspects of society....

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Lambdin P. Milligan. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-75189).

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Milligan, Lambdin P. (24 March 1812–21 December 1899), lawyer and defendant in a notable U.S. Supreme Court case, was born in Belmont County, Ohio, the son of Moses Milligan and Mary Purdy, farmers. (It is not known what his middle initial stood for.) He attended only one term of a subscription school but read widely in his father’s library. He left home during his late teens and worked as a farm hand and schoolteacher for several years before choosing law over medicine as a career. In 1835 he passed his oral bar exam, scoring highest in a class of nine, which included ...

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Mitchell, Juanita Jackson (2 Jan. 1913–7 July 1992), civil rights activist and lawyer, was born to Lillie Carroll Jackson, a schoolteacher, and Kieffer Albert Jackson, a traveling salesman, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. As the daughter of civil rights activists, Jackson was greatly influenced by her parents’ avocation of social justice and racial equality. By the 1920s the family relocated to Baltimore, Maryland. Jackson received her early education in the Baltimore public schools. After graduating from Fredrick Douglass High School in ...

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Ozawa, Takao (15 June 1875–16 November 1936), central figure in naturalization test case, was born in Sakurai village, Ashigara-Kami District, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Ozawa arrived in San Francisco at the age of nineteen. There he worked while putting himself through school and graduated from Berkeley High School. He then attended the University of California for three years. In 1906 he discontinued his studies and moved to Hawaii, where he was employed as a salesman by the Theo H. Davies Company, a large Honolulu dry goods wholesale dealer. He was married to Masako Takeya, who was also a Japanese immigrant. They had five children, all born, raised, and educated in Honolulu....

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Pilpel, Harriet Fleischl (02 December 1911–23 April 1991), civil liberties lawyer and activist, was born Harriet F. Fleischl to former schoolteacher Ethel Loewy and Julius Fleischl, a self-educated businessman who worked for his family’s dairy and poultry business. Harriet grew up in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the Bronx where she attended Evander Childs High School, served as captain of the debate team, and became interested in public affairs. The eldest of three children—all daughters—Harriet enjoyed a special relationship with her father, who expected her intellectual and academic achievements to equal those of her most accomplished male peers....

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Porter, Benjamin Faneuil (17 November 1808–04 June 1868), lawyer, politician, and reformer, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Benjamin Richardson Porter, an artisan, and Eliza Seabrook Fickling. The promising son of a poor family, Porter was put to work in a counting house at age fourteen. Too restless and inquisitive to be a clerk, he was apprenticed first to a doctor and then to attorney and orator ...

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Roe, Gilbert Ernstein (07 February 1865–22 December 1929), lawyer and author, was born in Oregon, Wisconsin, the son of John Roe and Jane McKeeby, farmers. Educated at the University of Wisconsin, Roe graduated from its law school in 1890 and joined the law firm of ...

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Rogge, O. John (12 October 1903–22 March 1981), attorney, government prosecutor, and civil liberties activist, was born Oetje John Rogge in Cass County, Illinois, the son of Hermann Rogge and Lydia Ann Satorius, farmers. Schooled partly on threshing crews until his late teens, Rogge became the youngest person to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois in 1922 at the age of nineteen. Rogge’s impressive academic achievements at Illinois were followed by a brilliant career at Harvard Law School, where he became an editor of the law review and in 1925 the youngest person to earn an LL.B. in the school’s modern era. Returning to Harvard in the early years of the Great Depression, he took a doctor of laws degree in 1932 and soon followed other recent graduates to Washington, D.C., where, inspired by professors such as ...

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Schroeder, Theodore (17 September 1864–10 February 1953), lawyer and author, was born on a farm near Horicon, Wisconsin, the son of Theodor Schroeder, a miller, and Barbara (maiden name unknown). His mother, a Catholic, was disowned by her family when she married his Lutheran father, who had left Germany after the revolution of 1848. Already predisposed against religion by his mother’s experience, Schroeder became a freethinker as a young man after reading the works of ...

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Scopes, John Thomas (03 August 1900–21 October 1970), high school science teacher, was born in Paducah, Kentucky, the son of Thomas Scopes, a railroad machinist who had immigrated from England, and Mary Alva Brown. When the family moved from Paducah to Danville, Illinois, Scopes and his sisters experienced bigotry firsthand. They were ostracized as southerners who sounded different. They and two African-American students were seated separately from the rest of their class during school assemblies....

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Storey, Moorfield (19 Mar. 1845–24 Oct. 1929), civil rights attorney and anti-imperialist activist, was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, to attorney Charles Storey and Elizabeth Eaton Storey, Boston Brahmin parents of declining wealth and Conscience Whig political persuasions. Storey attended Harvard College, graduating in ...