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Baker, Newton Diehl (03 December 1871–25 December 1937), lawyer, mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, and secretary of war, was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, the son of Newton Diehl Baker, a physician and former Confederate soldier, and Mary Ann Dukehart. Baker graduated in 1892 from Johns Hopkins University, where he first met ...

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Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove

Barry, Marion S., Jr. (6 Mar. 1936–23 Nov. 2014), four-term mayor of Washington, D.C., was born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, the third of ten children to two sharecroppers, Mattie Carr and Marion Barry, Sr. His father left the family and his mother moved to Memphis, Tennessee, when Marion was five years old. She married a widowed butcher, Prince Jones, and the couple raised eight children. Entrepreneurial and driven, Marion excelled at Booker T. Washington High School, graduating in ...

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Bradley, Tom (29 December 1917–29 September 1998), politician, was born Thomas Bradley to Lee and Crenner Hawkins Bradley, sharecroppers, on a cotton plantation in Calvert, Texas. He was the grandson of slaves in the Carolinas. When Tom was seven, the family moved to Los Angeles, where his father worked variously as a waiter, railroad porter, and steamship crewman. After his parents separated, Crenner Bradley worked as a maid. Tom and his siblings remained with their mother, but his father kept in regular contact. Both parents, but especially Tom's mother, encouraged their children to do well in school and applauded their accomplishments. For Tom, these included athletic achievements. As a student at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles, Bradley became a track star as well as an all-city tackle on the football team. He was also popular with fellow students and defeated a white student for the presidency of the school's Boys League....

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Clinton, De Witt (02 March 1769–11 February 1828), New York City mayor and New York State governor, was born in Little Britain, New York, the son of James Clinton, a career military man who became a brigadier general in the American army, and Mary De Witt. He was educated by a neighboring Presbyterian minister until he reached age thirteen and then spent two years at the Kingston Academy. After the revolutionary war came to an end, and the city of New York was liberated, Clinton was among the first to enroll at the newly named Columbia College, formerly known as King’s College, which reopened in 1784. On graduating, with honors, in April 1786, he read law in the Manhattan office of ...

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Couzens, James (26 August 1872–22 October 1936), businessman, mayor of Detroit, and U.S. senator, was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, the son of James J. Couzens and Emma Clift, an immigrant couple from England. Raised in a stern Presbyterian household and a lower-income family that lived on the “muddiest” street in town, young Couzens’s education was capped by two years of bookkeeping study at Chatham’s Canada Business College. He worked as a newsboy and then stirring smelly, boiling vats for his father, who had parlayed his skills as a soapmaker and salesman into ownership of a small soap-making factory. Displaying an assertive independence, which contemporaries noted that he had inherited from his stern-willed father, young Couzens set off for Detroit to test his mettle in the larger world and in 1890 was taken on as a railroad car–checker for the Michigan Central. Five years later he became an assistant bookkeeper for Alex Malcomson’s coal business, which brought him into contact with a mechanical tinkerer and automobile pioneer named ...

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Dow, Neal (20 March 1804–02 October 1897), politician and social reformer, was born in Portland, Maine, the son of Josiah Dow and Dorcas Allen, operators of a tanning business. He received a basic education at the Portland Academy and later at the Friends’ Academy in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He also received an education in social involvement from his parents, who were ardent Quakers, committed to various types of social reform. As a child Neal witnessed escaped slaves moving through his home, which was a station on the Underground Railroad. His father traveled widely in New England in the interests of antislavery, with the support of the Society of Friends. Dow wanted to attend college and become a lawyer, but his parents objected, so he went into partnership with his father in the family business. In 1830 he married Maria Cornelia Durant Maynard; they had nine children, five of whom survived to adulthood....

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Fitzgerald, John Francis (11 February 1863–02 October 1950), mayor of Boston and maternal grandfather of U.S. president John F. Kennedy and U.S. senators Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, mayor of Boston and maternal grandfather of U.S. president John F. Kennedy and U.S. senators ...

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Hall, Abraham Oakey (26 July 1826–07 October 1898), politician and journalist, was born in Albany, New York, the son of Morgan James Hall, a wholesale merchant whose business was in New Orleans, and Elsie Lansing Oakey. In 1830 his father died of yellow fever and his mother moved to New York City, where she ran a boardinghouse. Relatives helped his mother finance his education, and Oakey (as he preferred to be called) graduated from New York University in 1844. He attended Harvard Law School for one term but decided that study in a law office would allow him to practice law sooner. Living with an uncle in New Orleans, he studied under noted states’ rights Democrats ...

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Havemeyer, William Frederick (12 February 1804–30 November 1874), politician, was born in New York City, the son of William Havemeyer, a German immigrant sugar refiner and merchant. No information about his mother is available. After graduating from Columbia College in 1823, Havemeyer briefly studied law before entering his father’s business. In 1828 he married Sarah Agnes Craig; they had ten children. A few months after his father’s death in 1828, Havemeyer combined his father’s firm with one owned by his cousin, Frederick Christian Havemeyer. The new business thrived and Havemeyer retired in 1842. From that point, he devoted his life to a variety of interests, including banking, governmental reform, and politics....

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Kelly, Edward Joseph (01 May 1876–20 October 1950), mayor of Chicago, Illinois, was born in Chicago, the son of Stephen Kelly, a policeman, and Helen Lang. One of nine children, he left school early to help support his family and later studied civil engineering in night classes at the Chicago Athenaeum. In 1910 he married Mary Edmunda Roche; they had one child. His first wife died in 1918, and Kelly married Margaret Ellen Kirk in 1922; they adopted three children....

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La Guardia, Fiorello Henry (11 December 1882–20 September 1947), U.S. congressman and mayor of New York City, was born in New York City, the son of Achille La Guardia, an army bandmaster, and Irene Coen. Shortly after La Guardia’s father joined the American forces dispatched for Cuba in 1898 he fell ill, probably from the “embalmed beef” sold to the military, and was discharged from the army. He then took the family to Europe, where La Guardia, barely eighteen years old, won a post with the American consular service. On the Continent La Guardia experienced firsthand the intense ethnic hatreds and class antipathies of Central Europe; he also acquired fluency in five languages and a strong ambition to return to the United States....

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Mitchel, John Purroy (19 July 1879–06 July 1918), reformer and mayor of New York City, was born at Fordham (now Bronx), New York, the son of James Mitchel, a New York City fire marshal, and Mary Purroy, a schoolteacher until her marriage. After graduating from Columbia College (1899) and New York Law School (with honors in 1902), Mitchel practiced law as a private attorney. In 1909 he married Alice Olivia Child; they had no children....

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O’Dwyer, William (11 July 1890–24 November 1964), mayor of New York City, was born in Bohola, County Mayo, Ireland, the son of Patrick O’Dwyer and Bridget McNicholas, schoolteachers. He attended Bohola National School and St. Nathays College in Roscommon. At the urging of his mother, who was convinced he had a vocation for the priesthood, O’Dwyer in 1907 enrolled at the University of Salamanca, a Jesuit seminary in Spain. Three years before graduating, however, he abandoned his studies and sailed for New York. Arriving in June 1910 with $25.35 in his pocket, O’Dwyer found work in a succession of unskilled positions. As a plasterer’s apprentice, the future mayor helped in the construction of the Woolworth Building and several other Manhattan landmarks. At night O’Dwyer tended bar at the Vanderbilt Hotel, where he served (and came to detest) New York’s Bohemian saloon set. In 1916 he married Catherine Lenihan, a telephone operator at the Vanderbilt. They remained together until her death in 1946 but had no children....

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Rolph, James, Jr. (23 August 1869–02 June 1934), mayor of San Francisco and governor of California, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of James Rolph, an English-born bank clerk, and Margaret Nicol, an immigrant from Scotland. After graduating from Trinity School, a private secondary school headed by an Episcopal priest, Rolph worked in a commission house then formed his own shipping and commission company in 1898. After 1900 he engaged in several additional business activities, including banking, shipbuilding, importing, and insurance. In his shipping and shipbuilding enterprises, he dealt only with union labor, a fairly common practice in San Francisco at the time. During the early twentieth century, Rolph became prominent in civic affairs, serving as chairman of the Mission Relief Committee after the earthquake of 1906, president of the Merchant’s Exchange, trustee of the Chamber of Commerce, and vice president of the association sponsoring the Panama Pacific International Exposition....

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Walker, James J. (19 June 1881–18 November 1946), Tin Pan Alley songwriter and mayor of New York City, known as Jimmy Walker, was born James John Walker in New York City, the son of William Henry Walker, a carpenter and lumberyard owner, and Ellen Ida Roon. Walker’s father was an Irish immigrant and a local leader in the Tammany Hall Democratic organization. An apathetic student, Walker had a spotty educational record. He dropped out of college and business school before completing a degree at New York Law School in 1904....

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Wentworth, John (05 March 1815–16 October 1888), editor, congressman, and mayor of Chicago, was born in Sandwich, New Hampshire, the son of Paul Wentworth, a storekeeper, and Lydia Cogswell. His grandfather John Wentworth served in the Continental Congress and signed the Articles of Confederation. Young Wentworth attended first local public schools and then a series of private academies before entering Dartmouth College. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1836 he moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he gained employment as an agent for the ...

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Wherry, Kenneth Spicer (28 February 1892–29 November 1951), businessman and politician, was born in Liberty, Nebraska, the son of David Emery Wherry, a storekeeper, and Jessie Comstock. When he was eight months old, his family moved to Pawnee City, Nebraska, where his father opened a farm implement, furniture, and undertaking establishment. Wherry graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1914 and studied law and business at the Harvard School of Business Administration. He served in the Naval Flying Corps during World War I but did not go overseas. After reading law privately, he won admission to the Nebraska bar in 1931....

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Yorty, Sam (01 October 1909–05 June 1998), mayor, was born Samuel William Yorty in Lincoln, Nebraska, the son of Frank Patrick Yorty, restaurant owner and handyman, and Johanna Egan Yorty. Yorty grew up in a home where money was scarce but political discussions were plentiful— ...