The 1900s Government, Politics, and Law: Headline Makers

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The 1900s Government, Politics, and Law: Headline Makers

Charles Evans Hughes
Frances (Alice) Kellor
Robert La Follette
Theodore Roosevelt
William Taft
Booker T. Washington

Charles Evans Hughes (1862–1948) After earning a law degree in 1884, Charles Evans Hughes began his public career in 1905 when he investigated the natural gas industries in New York. He next investigated the state's insurance industry, which was accused of misusing its clients' funds. Hughes's success as a reformer allowed him to win election as New York's governor. He served two terms, from 1906 to 1910, which were marked by widespread reforms throughout the state government. In 1910, President William Taft appointed him to the Supreme Court. Hughes resigned in 1916 to run for the presidency but was narrowly defeated by Woodrow Wilson. In 1930, President Herbert Hoover appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He retired in 1941.

Frances (Alice) Kellor (1873–1952) Upon earning a law degree in 1897, Frances (Alice) Kellor devoted her life to improving the conditions faced by women, minorities, and, the poor in American society. She advocated reforms in the judicial and penal systems, using modern sociological theories. Her first book, Experimental Sociology, Descriptive and Analytical: Delinquents (1902), is seen as a landmark text for its use of statistics in analyzing social problems. The book influenced generations of later scholars. Among those who sought her assistance in easing social problems were Theodore Roosevelt and Charles Evans Hughes. Under her leadership New York's banks began to be regulated, the slums were improved, and services to immigrants were expanded.

Robert La Follette (1855–1925) Born into poverty, Robert La Follette rose from humble circumstances to earn a law degree in 1879. He was elected to Congress as a Republican representative from Wisconsin, in 1884. His politics began to change when he recognized that Wisconsin's political and corporate leaders seemed to be united to "cheat" the common people. In 1900 he was elected Wisconsin's governor. La Follette's time in office was marked by many reforms. His efforts served as an example to Progressives throughout the nation. To broaden his political ideals, he founded a national magazine in 1909, which was later called the Progressive. La Follette continued spreading his progressive ideas in the U.S. Senate, where he served until his death.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) Born a sickly child to a wealthy New York family, Theodore Roosevelt was determined to overcome his weaknesses. He conditioned his body through vigorous exercise, and he improved his mind through many hours of study. Late in the century Roosevelt became involved in New York politics, serving as a civil service commissioner and, eventually, as a police commissioner. In 1898, he resigned as assistant secretary of the Navy to command the "Rough Riders," a volunteer cavalry in Cuba during the Spanish-American War (1898). His war-hero status allowed him to be elected New York governor. Roosevelt became vice president when McKinley won the presidential election and became president upon McKinley's assassination in 1901. Roosevelt focused on reforming corporate power and conserving America's national resources.

William Taft (1857–1930) Ohio native William Taft was a lawyer long involved in Republican politics. In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison named Taft U.S. solicitor general. He became a federal judge in 1892, and in 1900 President William McKinley appointed Taft president of the Philippines Commission. He returned to the United States in 1904 to become Secretary of War under President Theodore Roosevelt, who counted Taft as one of his most trusted advisors. Taft won the presidency in 1908, but found the position unsatisfying. Increased tensions with former President Roosevelt led to a split within the Republican Party, which allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the White House in 1912. In 1921, President Warren G. Harding appointed Taft Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He is the only American to serve as both a president and a Supreme Court justice.

Booker T. Washington (1856–1915) Born into slavery, Booker T. Washington became the most influential African American leader and educator of the decade. Following emancipation (the freeing of slaves at the end of the Civil War), he worked in a salt furnace, in coalmines, and as a janitor to earn funds for his education. In 1881, the Tuskegee Institute, a Negro school in Alabama, was founded with Washington serving as its first principal. Washington was instrumental in developing the school into one of the nation's most prominent sites for educating African Americans. The most famous expression of his views was his "Atlanta Compromise" speech of 1895, in which he accepted racial segregation.

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The 1900s Government, Politics, and Law: Headline Makers

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The 1900s Government, Politics, and Law: Headline Makers