Politics

Gravestone of populist politician Williams Jennings Bryan

Ronald H. Brown (1941-1996) — The first African American to hold the position of U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown built a distinguished career in law and public service. A graduate of Middlebury College and St. Johns University School of Law, he served as a captain in the U.S. Army for four years, with postings in South Korea and Europe. After his military service, he practiced law at the prestigious Washington, D.C. firm of Patton, Boggs and Blow (becoming its first black partner), advised the presidential campaigns of Senator Edward Kennedy and Jesse Jackson, and served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1989 through 1992. In 1993, President William J. Clinton appointed him as Secretary of Commerce. On April 3, 1996, Brown and 34 other people were killed aboard a U.S. Air Force CT-43 that crashed in Croatia. (Section 6, Grave 8389-B)

William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) — During the Spanish-American War (1898), Williams Jennings Bryan helped organize the Third Nebraska Volunteer Infantry Regiment, despite having no military experience. In a distinguished political career, he served as a congressman, representing Nebraska in the House of Representatives from 1891 to 1895; as a three-time presidential candidate, running on the Democratic ticket in 1896, 1900 and 1908; and as secretary of state under President Woodrow Wilson (1912-1915). The populist politician is perhaps best known for his 1896 "Cross of Gold" speech, in which he advocated the free coinage of silver as a solution to the economic crises of the 1890s. Bryan also earned fame for his role in the "Scopes Monkey Trial" of July 1925, in which he helped prosecute a Tennessee schoolteacher accused of teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution instead of the Biblical doctrine of divine creation. Bryan died in his sleep six days after the trial concluded. The inscription on his gravestone (pictured) reads, "Statesman, yet friend to truth! Of soul sincere, in action faithful, and in honor clear." (Section 4, Grave 3121)

John Foster Dulles (1888-1959) — One of the most influential statesmen in American history, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles served during both terms of the Eisenhower administration, from January 1953 until shortly before his death from cancer in 1959. Born to a prominent Washington, D.C. family, Dulles graduated from Princeton University and the George Washington University Law School, with a focus on international law. During World War I, Dulles' poor eyesight prevented him from joining the Army, but he received a commission as a major on the War Industries Board, and President Woodrow Wilson appointed him as legal counsel to the U.S. delegation at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. In various capacities, he continued advising U.S. foreign policy during the 1920s through 1940s, helping to craft the United States' role in the newly created United Nations as well as its response to the growing threat of the Soviet Union. As Eisenhower's Secretary of State, Dulles — a staunch anti-communist, due in part to his Presbyterian faith — played a key role in shaping the early Cold War. His foreign policy sought to contain communism while strengthening "free world" alliances. (Section 21, Grave 31)

Medgar Evers (1925-1963) — Born in Decatur, Mississippi, Medgar Evers was a World War II U.S. Army veteran and civil rights leader. During World War II, Evers enlisted in the U.S. Army and fought with a segregated unit at the Battle of Normandy and in Germany. Following his honorable discharge as a technical sergeant, he enrolled at Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College, a historically black college in Mississippi, and graduated in 1946. Evers' experiences of racial discrimination, both in and out of uniform, motivated him to become a civil rights activist. He organized local affiliates of the National Association for the Advancementof Colored People (NAACP), and in 1954 the NAACP appointed him as its first Mississippi field secretary. He recruited hundreds of members, organized voter registration drives and economic boycotts, and investigated racially based crimes — including the 1955 lynching and murder of Emmett Till. In response, white supremacists repeatedly threatened Evers' life. On June 12, 1963, Evers was assassinated in front of his home. Just hours before a Ku Klux Klan member shot Evers in the back, President John F. Kennedy had delivered a nationally televised speech in support of civil rights. The murder made national headlines, and thousands of mourners attended Evers' full military honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. The following year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — one victory in the struggle for which Evers sacrificed his life. In 1994, 31 years after Evers' death, his killer was finally convicted. (Section 36, Grave 1431)

John Wingate Weeks (1860-1926) — After graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1881, John Weeks served as a midshipman in the Navy for two years; he later served in the Massachusetts Naval Brigade (1890-1900) and as a volunteer in the U.S. Navy during the Spanish-American War (1898). Though Weeks initially worked in civil engineering, he made his fortune in banking, as co-founder of the Boston financial firm Hornblower and Weeks. A committed Republican, in 1904 he was elected to the House of Representatives, representing Massachusetts for four terms; he subsequently won election to the Senate, where he served one term (1913-1919). In 1921, President Warren Harding appointed Weeks as secretary of war, a position that he continued under President Calvin Coolidge until he resigned, due to ill health, less than a year before his death. (Section 5, Grave 7064)

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