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Christopher, Warren (27 Oct. 1925–18 Mar. 2011), politician, diplomat, and lawyer, was born Warren Minor Christopher in Scranton, North Dakota, the fourth of five children of Ernest William Christopher, a bank manager, and Catherine Anne Lemen. Of Norwegian and German descent, his background was working-class and largely shaped by the health challenges of his father, who struggled to keep the bank afloat in the Great Depression. After its failure the family relocated to California. While attending Hollywood High School, Christopher spent the afternoons working as a newspaper boy for ...

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Cassius Marcellus Clay. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109862).

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Clay, Cassius Marcellus (19 October 1810–22 July 1903), antislavery politician and diplomat, was born in White Hall, Kentucky, the son of Green Clay, a land speculator, and Sally Lewis. Green Clay was one of the wealthiest landowners and slaveholders in Kentucky, and young Cassius was raised in comfort and affluence. He attended Transylvania University (1829–1831) and Yale College (1831–1832), where he received his bachelor’s degree. After returning to Transylvania to study law in 1832–1833, Clay married Mary Jane Warfield in 1833. The marriage produced ten children....

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Eustis, James Biddle (21 August 1834–09 September 1899), lawyer, politician, and diplomat, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of George Eustis, a wealthy lawyer who served as chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, and Clarisse Allain. The Eustis family had roots in Massachusetts, and after receiving his early education in New Orleans, James studied in Brookline, Massachusetts, the site of the family’s summer home. He earned an LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1854 and returned to his native city, where he was admitted to the bar in 1856. He began the practice of law in his father’s office and soon became a leading figure in the legal profession and in the public life of New Orleans. In 1857 he married Ellen Buckner; they had seven children, five of whom survived infancy....

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Christopher Gore. Engraving of a portrait by John Trumbull, 1809. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111573).

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Gore, Christopher (21 September 1758–01 March 1827), Federalist statesman, diplomat, and lawyer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Gore, a paint and color dealer, and Frances Pinkney. Paternally, he was descended from a Puritan family that migrated from Hampshire in England to Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1635. After attending the Boston Public Latin School, Gore entered Harvard College where he graduated in 1776. Although his Loyalist father fled Boston in 1776, Gore remained in Massachusetts and served the revolutionary cause as an officer in an artillery regiment. John Gore returned to America from England in 1785 and regained his citizenship. The taint of his father’s Toryism persisted, however, and Gore’s opponents used it against him when he was a candidate for the Massachusetts ratifying convention in 1787....

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Koerner, Gustave Philipp (20 November 1809–09 April 1896), lawyer, German-American political leader, and diplomat, was born at Frankfort on the Main, Germany, the son of Bernhard Koerner, a book dealer, and Maria Magdalene Kaempfe. In 1828 he completed studies at the Gymnasium at Frankfort and enrolled at the University of Jena, where he became active in the ...

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John Mercer Langston. Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.

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Langston, John Mercer (14 December 1829–15 November 1897), African-American political leader and intellectual, was born free in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of Ralph Quarles, a wealthy white slaveholding planter, and Lucy Jane Langston, a part–Native American, part-black slave emancipated by Quarles in 1806. After the deaths of both of their parents in 1834, Langston and his two brothers, well provided for by Quarles’s will but unprotected by Virginia law, moved to Ohio. There Langston lived on a farm near Chillicothe with a cultured white southern family who had been friends of his father and who treated him as a son. He was in effect orphaned again in 1839, however, when a court hearing, concluding that his guardian’s impending move to slave-state Missouri would imperil the boy’s freedom and inheritance, forced him to leave the family. Subsequently, he boarded in four different homes, white and black, in Chillicothe and Cincinnati, worked as a farmhand and bootblack, intermittently attended privately funded black schools since blacks were barred from public schools for whites, and in August 1841 was caught up in the violent white rioting against blacks and white abolitionists in Cincinnati....

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John Young Mason. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109927).

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Mason, John Young (18 April 1799–03 October 1859), planter-lawyer, politician, and diplomat, was born at “Homestead,” the family plantation in Greensville County, Virginia, the son of Edmunds Mason and Frances Ann Young, both descendants of landed southern Tidewater families. An excellent student, young Mason graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1816, read law with Judge Griffin Stith in Southampton County, and then attended the law school of Judge ...

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Osborn, Thomas Andrew (26 October 1836–04 February 1898), lawyer, politician, and diplomat, was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania, the son of Carpenter Osborn and Elizabeth Morris. Nothing is known about what his parents did for a living. Osborn learned the printing trade in Meadville and attended the preparatory department of Allegheny College from 1855 to 1857. He read for the law in 1856. In 1857 he moved to Pontiac, Michigan, where he was admitted to the bar. He left Pontiac in late 1857 and settled in Lawrence, Kansas, where he worked as a print compositor and occasional acting editor of the ...

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William Pinkney. Engraving, 1863, from a painting by Alonzo Chappel. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94115).

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Pinkney, William (17 March 1764–25 February 1822), lawyer, diplomat, and politician, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of Jonathan Pinkney and Ann Rind. His education at King William school in Annapolis was interrupted at age thirteen when, because of Loyalist sympathies, his father’s property was confiscated during the Revolution. For a time he was instructed at home on a tutorial basis and then began the study of medicine. Pinkney abandoned that training in 1783 when ...

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Strauss, Robert S. (19 Oct. 1918–19 Mar. 2014), politician, lawyer, and ambassador, was born Robert Schwarz Strauss in Lockhart, Texas, the elder son of Edith Schwarz Strauss, a native Texan of German-Jewish descent, and Charles H. Strauss, who had emigrated from Germany several years earlier. Soon after Robert’s birth the family moved to West Texas, settling in Stamford, a town of three thousand people, where his parents owned a dry goods store in the town square. The hard-working Edith, who bore the brunt of work at the store and at home, played a significant role in encouraging Robert’s ambitions beyond West Texas. She convinced her son, a poor student who earned admission to the University of Texas in ...