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Charles Francis Adams, Jr. During his Civil War service. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8171-7390).

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Adams, Charles Francis (27 May 1835–20 March 1915), railroad official, civic leader, and historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), a diplomat and politician, and Abigail Brown Brooks. He was the grandson of John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) and great-grandson of ...

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Albrier, Frances Mary (21 September 1898–21 August 1987), civil rights activist and community leader, was born in Mount Vernon, New York, the daughter of Lewis Redgrey, a supervisor in a factory, and Laura (maiden name unknown), a cook. Following the death of her mother when Frances was three, she and her baby sister were reared by her paternal grandparents, Lewis Redgrey, a Blackfoot Indian, and Johanna Bowen, a freed slave, on their 55-acre farm in Tuskegee, Alabama....

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Alexander, Abraham (1718–23 April 1786), early leader in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, was born probably in Cecil County, Maryland, the son of Francis Alexander (mother’s name unknown). Alexander was descended from one of several families bearing his surname who arrived in the middle colonies from Northern Ireland early in the eighteenth century, many of them settling in Cecil County. His grandfather, Joseph Alexander, a tanner, recorded his will in Cecil County in 1726. His father may have migrated with his wife and children, but it is more likely that Abraham was in the vanguard of younger relatives who commenced relocating in the early 1750s to the southern piedmont of North Carolina. The Alexander clan was enticed to the region by Lord George Augustus Selwyn and ...

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Benson, Oscar Herman (08 July 1875–15 August 1951), educator and organizer of youth groups, was born in Delhi, Iowa, the son of P. C. Benson and Celia Ortberg, farmers. His father died when Oscar was still a child, and he became the principal support for his mother and three younger siblings. He continued to farm and took on additional jobs to pay for his education. At the age of eighteen, while working in a sawmill, he lost three fingers in an accident. His neighbors, in admiration of his determination to succeed, took up a collection that enabled him to continue his schooling. In 1898 Benson graduated from Epworth (Iowa) Seminary and Teaching College and then financed three further years of college (the State University of Iowa, Iowa State Teachers’ College, and the University of Chicago) by teaching in rural schools. In 1902 he married Sadie J. Jackson; they had three children....

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Broom, Jacob (1752–25 April 1810), civic leader and delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, was born in Wilmington, New Castle County, then part of Pennsylvania, later Delaware, the son of James Broom, a blacksmith who prospered through real estate ventures, and Ester Willis, a Quaker. Broom was educated as a lawyer and as a surveyor at a private school that later became the College of Wilmington. In 1773 he married Rachel Pierce, a widow from nearby Christiana Hundred. She and six of their eight children survived Jacob....

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Bulova, Arde (24 October 1889–19 March 1958), businessman, was born in New York City, the son of Joseph Bulova and Bertha Eisner. His father emigrated to New York from Bohemia and in 1873 started a small jewelry manufacturing business that eventually became the Bulova Watch Company. Bulova attended school in New York and in 1905 began working as a salesman for his father’s company. The family business prospered and in 1911 was incorporated, with the father as president and the son as vice president and treasurer. The firm was reincorporated in 1923 as the Bulova Watch Company, Inc. Bulova became chairman of the board in 1930, a position he held until his death in 1958....

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Thomas Burke. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96663).

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Charles H. Sheldon

Burke, Thomas (22 December 1849–04 December 1925), lawyer, was born in Clinton County, New York, the son of James Burke and Delia Bridget Ryan, farmers. After his mother’s death in 1861, eleven-year-old Thomas left the farm and struck out on his own. He secured a position in a grocery store and then as a water carrier for railroad crews while boarding in Marion, Iowa. Later, while working part-time, he attended Ypsilanti Seminary in Michigan. Although slight of build and with a partially crippled arm, Thomas soon gained the respect of his classmates with his quick wit, unbounded energy, deep resonant voice, and eloquent speech—talents he would later use to great advantage in court and at public forums....

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Burlingham, Charles Culp (31 August 1858–06 June 1959), attorney, civic leader, and social and political reformer, was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, the son of the Reverend Aaron Hale Burlingham, a Baptist minister, and Emma Starr. Reverend Burlingham was a minister in New York City. C. C. B., as he was known by friends, lived in France for a time, after his father became minister of the American Chapel in Paris in 1863. In 1866 the family returned to the United States, and Charles’s father accepted a position as a pastor in St. Louis, Missouri, where Charles lived until he enrolled in Harvard University in 1875. He graduated in 1879 with an A.B. He then entered Columbia Law School, from which he received an LL.B. in 1881, the same year he was admitted to the New York bar. Two years later he married Louisa W. Lawrence; they had two sons and a daughter....

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Burrell, Berkeley Graham (12 June 1919–30 August 1979), business executive and civic leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Hayward G. Burrell and Fannie Miles. Although his parents’ occupations are unknown, both his father and mother were natives of the District of Columbia, and Burrell’s roots in the area ran deep. After graduating from Dunbar High School at the age of fifteen, he worked as a driver for a local pharmacy and apparently also drove a cab for a while. He married at age sixteen (wife’s name unknown), and the marriage produced a son before ending in divorce seven years later....

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Butler, Selena Sloan (04 January 1872?–07 October 1964), community leader and child-welfare activist, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the daughter of Winnie Williams, a woman of African- and Native-American descent, and William Sloan, a Caucasian man who reportedly supported her and her older sister but lived apart from the family. Even after her mother died, presumably at a fairly young age, she kept quiet about her father’s identity. Communication between them was minimal. At age ten, having been schooled by missionaries in Thomas County, she was admitted, on scholarship, to the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary (now Spelman College) in Atlanta and received her high school diploma in 1888 as a member of the school’s second graduating class. After graduation she taught English and elocution in the public schools in Atlanta until around 1891, when she took a position at the State Normal School in Tallahassee, Florida (now Florida Agricultural and Mechanical State University)....

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Candler, Asa Griggs (30 December 1851–12 March 1929), businessman and civic leader, was born near Villa Rica, Carroll County, Georgia, the son of Samuel Charles Candler, a farmer and merchant, and Martha Beall. Three of Asa Candler’s brothers also rose to prominence: one became a Methodist Episcopal bishop; one a justice on the Georgia Supreme Court; and the third a U.S. congressman. Candler married Lucy Elizabeth Howard in 1878, and they had five children. Lucy Candler died in Atlanta in 1919. Candler married Mary Little Reagan in 1923....

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Cass, Melnea Agnes Jones (16 June 1896–16 December 1978), civic leader and civil rights activist, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Albert Jones, a janitor, and Mary Drew, a domestic worker. Seeking broader employment and educational opportunities, the Jones family moved to Boston, Massachusetts, when Melnea was five years old. Her mother died when she was eight, and she and her two sisters were entrusted to the care of an aunt, Ella Drew. After one year at Girls’ High School in Boston, she was sent to St. Francis de Sales Convent School, a Roman Catholic school for black and Indian girls in Rock Castle, Virginia. There household management was taught in addition to the academic curriculum; she graduated as valedictorian of her class in 1914....

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Childs, Richard Spencer (24 May 1882–26 September 1978), business executive and political reformer, was born in Manchester, Connecticut, the son of William Hamlin Childs and Nellie White Spencer. His father founded the Bon Ami Company and, together with his other business ventures, became one of the wealthiest men in Brooklyn, New York, where the family moved in 1892. Richard Childs attended Yale University from 1900 to 1904 and earned a B.A. In 1904 he joined the advertising agency of Alfred William Erickson; eventually becoming a junior partner, he remained with the firm until 1918. He married Grace Pauline Hatch in 1912. They had four children (their firstborn died a day after birth). From 1919 to 1920 Childs was manager of the Bon Ami Company, and from 1921 to 1928 he was head of the drug specialties division of the A. E. Chew Company, a New York exporter. Childs worked for the American Cyanamid Company from 1928 to 1947 and headed its Lederle Laboratories division from 1935 to 1944....

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Peter Cooper. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-11083).

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Cooper, Peter (12 February 1791–04 April 1883), inventor, manufacturer, and civic benefactor, was born in New York City, the son of John Cooper and Margaret Campbell. His father was a struggling merchant who moved the family successively to Peekskill, Catskill, and finally Newburgh, New York, in search of financial success. Assisting his father in a series of occupations (hatter, brewer, shopkeeper, and brickmaker), Cooper obtained valuable practical work experience. Given his family’s relative poverty and constant movement, Cooper was only able to obtain a year’s worth of formal schooling; this deficiency in his formal education haunted him throughout his life....

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Coppin, Fanny Jackson (1837–21 January 1913), educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father’s name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by ...

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Cotter, Joseph Seamon, Sr. (02 February 1861–14 March 1949), teacher, author, and civic leader, was born in Bardstown, Kentucky, the son of Michael (also spelled Micheil) Cotter, a boarding house owner, and Martha Vaughn. Although his father was known as an avid reader, Cotter was raised largely by his mother, a freeborn woman of mixed English, Cherokee, and African blood. It was from her naturally dramatic manner—she orally composed poems and plays as she worked at chores—that he acquired his love of language and stories. Having taught herself, she also taught Cotter to read and enrolled him in school, but at age eight economic necessity forced him to drop out and begin working at various jobs: in a brickyard, then a distillery, and finally as a ragpicker and a teamster. Until age twenty-two, manual labor consumed much of Cotter’s life....

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Craig, Isaac (1742–14 June 1826), American revolutionary officer and Pittsburgh business and civic leader, was born in Hillsborough, Ireland, to parents whose names and occupations are not known. He came to Philadelphia in late 1765 and worked in that city for about ten years as a master carpenter and builder. He became a patriot and in November 1775 was appointed as a first lieutenant in the first company of marines. That year Craig served on the ...