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Aaron, Hank (5 Feb. 1934–22 Jan. 2021), baseball player  

Bruce J. Evensen

Aaron, Hank (5 Feb. 1934–22 Jan. 2021), baseball player, was born Henry Louis Aaron, the third of eight children of Herbert Aaron, Sr., a shipyard riveter, and Estella Pritchett Aaron in Mobile, Alabama.

When Aaron was eight his family moved into a windowless two-room house his father had built with discarded lumber in the Black section of Toulminville, Alabama, four miles northwest of Mobile. Aaron loved hitting bottle caps with a broomstick. It became his batting style—lashing at a ball with his weight on his front foot. As a teenager, he developed his game in a segregated, all-Black recreational league....


Abbot, Charles Greeley (1872-1973), astronomer  

David DeVorkin

Abbot, Charles Greeley (31 May 1872–17 December 1973), astronomer, was born in Wilton, New Hampshire, the son of Harris Abbot and Caroline Ann Greeley, farmers. Abbott began the study of chemistry and physics at Phillips Andover Academy and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1894 with a thesis in chemical physics under the direction of ...


Abbott, Grace (1878-1939), social worker and administrator  

Julie Longo and Sandra F. VanBurkleo

Abbott, Grace (17 November 1878–19 June 1939), social worker and administrator, was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, the daughter of Othman Ali Abbott, a lawyer and politician, and Elizabeth Griffin, a high school principal. The Abbott household provided an intellectually stimulating environment, emphasizing reading, discussion, and formal education for all four children. Othman Abbott encouraged both Grace and her older sister ...


Abernathy, Ralph David (1926-1990), civil rights leader and minister  

Kenneth H. Williams

Abernathy, Ralph David (11 March 1926–17 April 1990), civil rights leader and minister, was born David Abernathy in Linden, Alabama, the son of William L. Abernathy and Louivery Valentine Bell, farmers. A sister’s favorite professor was the inspiration for the nickname “Ralph David,” and although Abernathy never made a legal change, the name remained with him from age twelve....


Abraham Becker and Magdalena Becker (1901–1941)  

Marvin E. Kroeker

Abraham Becker and Magdalena Becker (act. 1901–1941), Mennonite missionaries who worked among the Comanche Indians of Oklahoma

Abraham Jacob Becker (25 February 1872–15 January 1953) was born in Wohldemfuerst, Kuban, Russia, the son of Jacob P. Becker, a farmer and minister and a founder of the Mennonite Brethren branch of the Mennonite Church, and Margaretha Wiens Becker. ...


Abrams, Creighton Williams, Jr. (15 September 1914–04 September 1974), army officer  

George C. Herring

Abrams, Creighton Williams, Jr. (15 September 1914–04 September 1974), army officer, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Creighton W. Abrams, a railway repairman, and Nellie Randall. At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Abrams excelled in horsemanship, played football, and attained a mediocre academic record, finishing 185th in a class of 276. He graduated in 1936 and was commissioned a second lieutenant of cavalry. That same year he married Julia Harvey, with whom he would have six children....


Abzug, Bella (1920-1998), lawyer, feminist leader, and U.S. representative  

Edward L. Lach Jr.

Abzug, Bella (24 July 1920–31 March 1998), lawyer, feminist leader, and U.S. representative, was born Bella Savitsky in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Emmanuel Savitsky, butcher, and Ester Tanklefsky Savitsky. She attended local schools before entering Hunter College in Manhattan, where she took part in student government and was active in the Zionist movement. She entered Columbia University Law School following her graduation in 1942 but soon left school and took a wartime job in a shipyard. She married Martin Abzug, a writer who later became a stockbroker, in 1944; the couple had two daughters. Abzug returned to Columbia and served as editor of the ...


Acheson, Dean Gooderham (11 April 1893–12 October 1971), lawyer and secretary of state  

Robert A. Divine

Acheson, Dean Gooderham (11 April 1893–12 October 1971), lawyer and secretary of state, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of Edward Campion Acheson, an Episcopal minister, and Eleanor Gertrude Gooderham. He grew up in comfortable, middle-class circumstances. His mother’s family wealth and his father’s appointment as a bishop in 1915 attest to his family’s secure place in local Connecticut society. Acheson attended Groton and then Yale University, receiving his B.A. in 1915 with an undistinguished academic record. In May 1917 he married Alice Caroline Stanley; they had three children. At Harvard Law School, he studied under ...


Acosta, Bertrand Blanchard (1895-1954), aviation pioneer  

Roger D. Launius

Acosta, Bertrand Blanchard (01 January 1895–01 September 1954), aviation pioneer, was born in San Diego, California, the son of Aphonse Ferdinand Acosta and Martha Blanche Snook, businesspeople. Acosta became enthralled with aviation at an early age, built gliders and later powered aircraft, and taught himself to fly. Because of this interest, at age sixteen his parents enrolled him in Throop Polytechnic Institute (later the California Institute of Technology) in Pasadena so that he could study aeronautical engineering, but he never graduated. Beginning in 1911 Acosta spent almost every moment not in school working for ...


Adams, Abigail (1744-1818), first lady and woman of intellect  

Nancy Neims Parks

Adams, Abigail (11 November 1744–28 October 1818), first lady and woman of intellect, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Smith, a Congregational minister, and Elizabeth Quincy. Abigail grew up in a prominent and wealthy family, descended from Puritan leaders and successful merchants. She had no formal schooling, both because of her recurrent illnesses and the limited options available to girls. Yet neither obstacle prevented her from achieving a remarkably broad and sophisticated education. She enjoyed the family’s well-stocked library, the stimulating company of educated relatives and parsonage visitors, and the attentive tutelage of her grandmother. Her studies ranged from Shakespeare to Locke, from Plato to French. She also began two lifelong habits: letter-writing to distant relatives and friends, and the practice of a deep Congregational faith....


Adams, Charles Francis (1835-1915), railroad official, civic leader, and historian  

John F. Stover

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 ...


Adams, Don (1923-2005), comedian and actor  

Richard H. Gentile

Adams, Don (13 April 1923–25 September 2005), comedian and actor, was born Donald James Yarmy in New York City, the second of the three children of William Yarmy, a restaurant manager, and Consuelo Morgan. Adams, who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, liked to read and draw but had an aversion to New York public schools. Much of his youth was spent frequenting the movie theaters on 42nd Street, where he believed he received a better education. At parties he and his neighborhood friends, a number of whom also forged careers in show business, tried to top each other performing comic bits. Adams's forte became impersonations of the Hollywood stars of the day....


Adams, Grizzly (1812-1860), mountain man and wild animal tamer  

Richard H. Dillon

Adams, Grizzly (22 October 1812–25 October 1860), mountain man and wild animal tamer, was born John Adams in Medway, Massachusetts, the son of Eleazar Adams and Sybil Capen. Adams apparently served an apprenticeship as a cobbler, but when he was twenty-one he began hunting and trapping animals, for showmen, in the woods of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. He delighted in his work, which was cut short when he tried to control an unruly Bengal tiger. In doing this favor for an exhibitor, Adams was badly mangled. When he recovered his health, he went back to making boots and shoes....


Adams, Harriet Chalmers (22 October 1875–17 July 1937)  

Tamar Y. Rothenberg

Adams, Harriet Chalmers (22 October 1875–17 July 1937), explorer, lecturer, and writer, was born Harriet Chalmers in Stockton, California. Her father, Alexander Chalmers, Canadian via Scotland, came to California in 1864 to try his luck mining; he later ran a dry goods store with his brother before becoming a mine superintendent and part-owner. Her mother, Frances Wilkins, had grown up in the Sierra Nevada foothills. From the age of eleven Harriet and her sister Anna had private tutors. Her mother encouraged Harriet’s love of reading, while travels with her father developed her interest in the natural world as well as the Native American and Spanish-speaking cultures in the region. At thirteen Harriet and her father spent more than six months meandering the length of the Sierras from Oregon to Mexico, cementing her lifelong love of adventure. As a young woman Harriet continued her indoor and outdoor studies and had an active social life. She was fluent in Spanish and spoke Portuguese, French, Italian, and German as well....


Adams, Herbert Samuel (1858-1945), sculptor  

Michael W. Panhorst

Adams, Herbert Samuel (28 January 1858–21 May 1945), sculptor, was born in West Concord, Vermont, the son of Samuel Minot Adams, a machinist and patternmaker, and Nancy Ann Powers. Adams grew up in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. He studied at a technical school in Worcester and at the Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston before traveling to Paris, where he studied with Antonin Mercié at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1885 to 1890. In 1888 he made a bronze fountain for the town of Fitchburg that features two boys playing with turtles. In 1888–1889 his work won an honorable mention at a Paris exhibition....


Adams, John (1735-1826), second president of the United States, diplomat, and political theorist  

William Pencak

Adams, John (19 October 1735–04 July 1826), second president of the United States, diplomat, and political theorist, was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, the son of John Adams (1691–1760), a shoemaker, selectman, and deacon, and Susanna Boylston. He claimed as a young man to have indulged in “a constant dissipation among amusements,” such as swimming, fishing, and especially shooting, and wished to be a farmer. However, his father insisted that he follow in the footsteps of his uncle Joseph Adams, attend Harvard College, and become a clergyman. John consented, applied himself to his studies, and developed a passion for learning but refused to become a minister. He felt little love for “frigid John Calvin” and the rigid moral standards expected of New England Congregationalist ministers....


Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848), secretary of state, sixth president of the United States, and U.S. congressman  

Mary W. M. Hargreaves

Adams, John Quincy (11 July 1767–23 February 1848), secretary of state, sixth president of the United States, and U.S. congressman, was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, the son of John Adams (1735–1826), second president of the United States, and Abigail Smith Adams (Abigail Adams...


Adams, Louisa Catherine Johnson (1775-1852), first lady  

Catherine A. Allgor

Adams, Louisa Catherine Johnson (12 February 1775–15 May 1852), first lady, was born in London, England, the daughter of Joshua Johnson, an American merchant, and Catherine Nuth (or Young). Though it is known that her father was a prominent businessman and that her uncle ...


Adams, Maude (1872-1953), actress  

Tracy C. Davis

Adams, Maude (11 November 1872–17 July 1953), actress, was born Maude Ewing Kiskadden in Salt Lake City, Utah, the daughter of James Henry Kiskadden, a banker, and Asenath Ann Adams, an actress. Adams’s mother was raised a Mormon but married outside the church. Adams, the only surviving child, was introduced to an audience at nine months and took her first speaking role at the age of five. She used her mother’s maiden name from the outset of her career. She appeared frequently in stock companies with her mother, first in Salt Lake City, then in 1874 in Virginia City, Nevada, in 1875 in San Francisco, and on tours throughout the West. Reports on Adams’s schooling vary, the longest estimate being that she studied from the age of six to sixteen. According to Phyllis Robbins’s biography (informed by Adams’s mother and various other family members and corrected in manuscript by Adams), she had only intermittent schooling before spending her tenth and eleventh years at the Salt Lake City Collegiate Institute under her maternal grandmother’s protection; formal tutoring ended when her father died and Adams was summoned to San Francisco to join her mother. They toured together until 1888, when Adams received her first engagement in a resident New York company. Several years of stock with E. H. Sothern followed before Adams made a success in 1892 in ...


Adams, Samuel (1722-1803), revolutionary politician, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Massachusetts governor  

Pauline Maier

Adams, Samuel (27 September 1722–02 October 1803), revolutionary politician, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Massachusetts governor, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Adams and Mary Fifield. Of the twelve children born to the couple, he was one of only three who survived their parents. The elder Samuel Adams was a prosperous investor in real estate and other ventures, including the ill-fated land bank of 1740–1741, and the owner of a brewery. He also held several public offices—Boston selectman, justice of the peace, and member of the provincial assembly....