Daley, Richard J. (1902–1976) Elected mayor of Chicago every four years from 1955 to 1975, Daley was the last of the big city bosses, wielding tremendous power by controlling patronage jobs but also by managing the city with a high level of competence that stimulated growth at a time when many large American cities were in decline. Daley’s dictatorial style caused much outrage—especially for the brutal measures taken against demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention held in the city—but the mayor also commanded great loyalty from the majority of Chicagoans. His son, Richard M. Daley, became mayor in 1989 and, as of 2006, is still serving.
Darling, Jay Norwood “Ding” (1876–1962) “Ding” Darling was born in Norwood, Michigan, and raised in Sioux City, Iowa. He earned early national fame as a Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, who worked principally for the Des Moines (Iowa) Register, but his most enduring legacy was as a founder of the Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit at Iowa State College (later Iowa State University), which set the pattern for similar research units all over the nation. He created the first federal duck stamp in 1934, sales of which enabled the purchase of two million acres of national waterfowl habitat.
Darrow, Clarence (1875–1938) Through a long legal career, Darrow earned a reputation as a brilliant attorney defending liberal causes and unpopular people. He was one of the defenders of the Haymarket rioters charged with murder May 4, 1886); he defended socialist labor leader Eugene V. Debs, charged with contempt of court for his leadership of the great Pullman Strike (May–July 1894); he secured acquittal for International Workers of the World (IWW) leader William D. (“Big Bill”) Haywood on murder charges; he defended antiwar protesters in World War I; he saved the infamous child murderers Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold from execution in 1924; and, in 1925, he defended teacher John T. Scopes, who had violated Tennessee state law by teaching the Theory of Evolution.
Davis, Angela (1944– ) Davis was a Marxist philosophy professor who became an advocate of black revolution during the 1960s and 1970s. When she espoused the cause of another black revolutionary, George Jackson, she was charged in 1970 with kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy for her suspected complicity in an attempted escape and abduction from a California courtroom. An all-white jury acquitted her. In 1991, Davis was named professor of the history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Davis, Benjamin Oliver Jr. (1912–2002) Davis was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr., first general officer in the U.S. Army. He graduated from West Point in 1936, as the sole African American at the academy having suffered ostracism by the corps of cadets. Trained at the segregated flight school established at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Davis led the legendary Tuskegee Airmen in combat during World War II. After the war, in 1954, he became the first African-American general in the USAF. In 1971, he was named assistant secretary for the department of transportation.
Davis, Benjamin Oliver Sr. (1877–1970) Davis was born in Washington, D.C., and studied at Howard University, which he left in 1898 to serve as a lieutenant of volunteers in the Spanish-American War. After the war, he reenlisted in the regular army as a private, rising through the ranks to become in 1940 the segregated U.S. Army’s first African-American general. After World War II, he served as assistant inspector general of the army until his retirement in 1948. His son, Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr., became the first black general in the U.S. Air Force.
Davis, Jefferson (1808–1889) A hero of the United States-Mexican War (1846–1848), a U.S. Representative, and secretary of war under Franklin Pierce, Davis, a Mississippian, accepted appointment as president of the Confederate States of America in 1861 and served as such throughout the Civil War. After the war, he was held in prison by the federal government for two years before he was charged with treason. The government dropped its case in 1868, however, and Davis returned to private life, becoming a president once again—this time of a Memphis, Tennessee, insurance company.
Davis, Stuart (1894–1964) Philadelphia-born Davis was the son of a graphic artist and newspaper art editor. The graphic designs young Davis grew familiar with as a child influenced his mature abstract painting style, which combined Cubism (inspired by Picasso, Cezanne, and Braque) with elements of American commercial art. This combination, innovative and idiosyncratic at the time, became highly influential on later modern American art movements, including the Pop Art movement of the 1960s.
Dayton, Jonathan (1760–1824) At 27, Dayton was the youngest member of the U.S. Constitutional Convention. He rose to become speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and went on to develop huge portions of the Ohio territory, especially the area that later became the state of Ohio. This earned him the honor of having a major Ohio city named for him, even though he was implicated in Aaron Burr’s grandiose scheme to establish an empire in the American West. Like Burr, Dayton was indicted for high treason; unlike him, he was never prosecuted. Dean, John (1938– ) Dean earned his law degree in 1965 from Georgetown University and in 1970 became President Richard M. Nixon’s White House counsel. In 1972, Nixon appointed Dean to investigate the “possible involvement” of White House personnel in the break-in at Democratic National Headquarters in Washington’s Watergate complex. Refusing President Nixon’s request that he fabricate a report denying an investigation cover-up, Dean soon turned against his boss, revealing to federal investigators all he knew about Watergate. Two months after Nixon fired Dean on April 30, 1973, Dean testified publicly before the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, revealing in detail how the White House had systematically obstructed justice following the Watergate break-in. Imprisoned briefly for his role in Watergate, Dean told all in the confessional memoir Blind Ambition (1976).
Debs, Eugene (1855–1926) Debs revolutionized the concept of the American labor union when he organized workers by industry rather than by craft. After becoming president of the American Railway Union in 1893, he united railway workers from various crafts, thereby creating the nation’s first industrial union. He led the union in the great Pullman strike of 1895, for which he was given a six-month jail sentence. During this time, he read the works of Karl Marx and became a confirmed socialist, convinced that the essence of the labor movement was a struggle between classes. Between 1900 and 1920, he ran for U.S. president five times as a member of the Socialist Party.
Decatur, Stephen (1779–1820) Decatur became a national naval hero in 1804 when he led an expedition into Tripoli harbor to burn the U.S. frigate Philadelphia, which had fallen into Tripolitan hands during action against the Barbary pirates. During the War of 1812, he compiled a magnificent record against the ships of the mighty British fleet. After further victories against Barbary pirates in 1815, he famously replied to a toast in his honor: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.” He met his death in a duel with a former officer in whose court martial he had been involved.
Deere, John (1804–1886) After working as a blacksmith in his native Vermont, Deere moved west and set up a smithy at Grand Detour, Illinois. Kept busy repairing plows broken by the tough prairie soil, he hit upon radical design improvements, finally producing a plow of his own in 1836 with a hard steel share shaped like ship’s prow. It was the plow that broke the plains—enabling the productive agricultural exploitation of vast tracts of the prairies and Great Plains, thereby opening much of the West to homesteading settlement.
De Forest, Lee (1873–1961) De Forest was fascinated by mechanics and technology and, as a teenager, was a tinkerer and amateur inventor. De Forest defied his father, who wanted him to study for a career in the clergy, and instead earned a Ph.D. in physics. In 1902, he founded the De Forest Wireless Telegraphy Company, inventing in 1907 the Audion vacuum tube, capable of more sensitive radio reception than existing vacuum tubes. This enabled the live broadcast of radio and also led to such inventions as radar, television, and early computer systems. It was the key electronic component prior to the invention of the transistor in 1947 and ushered in the modern electronic age.
de Kooning, Willem (1904–1997) Born in the Netherlands, de Kooning was active in the New York art scene of the 1950s and became a leading exponent (with Jackson Pollock) of abstract expressionism, abstract painting closely allied to so-called “action painting,” a revolutionary style in which spontaneity and chance figured in dynamic compositions that seemed to reflect the high energy of life at mid 20th century.
Deloria, Vine, Jr. (1933–2005) Born near the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Deloria studied for the Lutheran ministry but earned a law degree instead and served as Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians. He published his first book in 1969, Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto, which attacked Indian stereotypes and took a fresh look at the history of white American western expansionism from the Native point of view. It was the first of his 20 books on historical and cultural issues relating to Native Americans, with emphasis on education and religion.
De Mille, Agnes (1905–1993) The daughter of a playwright and niece of director Cecil B. DeMille, Agnes George De Mille brought into modern American dance elaborate elements of dramatic narrative and incorporated American themes, folklore, popular culture, and folk dance into a new vocabulary of choreography, which transformed modern ballet into choreographic drama and storytelling.
DeMille, Cecil B. (1881–1959) The son of a playwright, DeMille started his career as an actor and got into directing movies in 1914. He developed the genre of the Hollywood spectacle, which used an army of extras playing on vast movie sets to tell epic stories, often of a religious nature. His original silent versions of The Ten Commandments (1923) and The King of Kings (1927) were seen by an estimated 800 million people. Critics did not consider DeMille a cinematic artist, but his commercial success propelled him through a 50-year career in which he directed and/or produced 70 films, culminating in his 1956 remake of The Ten Commandments. All contemporary “special effects” mega-budget Hollywood entertainments trace their ancestry to the films of “C.B.”
De Soto, Hernando (1496/95–1542) One of the most famous of the conquistadors, De Soto participated in the Spanish conquests of Central America and Peru and explored a vast swath of what would become the southeastern United States. He was the first European to lay eyes on the Mississippi River (south of modern Memphis, Tennessee). Succumbing to fever, he was buried along that river’s bank.
DeVoto, Bernard (1897–1955) DeVoto wrote in many genres—fiction, criticism, and journalism—but he is best known as a magisterial historian of the American West. DeVoto was not only immersed in the western past, but was deeply concerned about the region’s future, and his monthly column for Harper’s Magazine, “The Easy Chair,” served to make the nation’s public aware of the precious value of the western lands and the necessity for faithful stewardship of them.
Dewey, George (1837–1917) Dewey began the Battle of Manila Bay, Philippines, before 6:00 a.m. on May 1, 1898, with the words (directed to the captain of his flagship): “You may fire when ready, Gridley.” Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet without losing a single man. In March 1899, Congress created a new rank expressly for him—admiral of the navy, the highest rank ever held by a U.S. naval officer.
Dewey, John (1859–1952) Working mainly at the University of Chicago, Dewey was a pioneer of philosophical pragmatism, which holds that ideas are essentially tools to be used in the solution of problems encountered in the environment. A typically American approach to intellect, the philosophy gave rise to what Dewey called functional psychology and to a pragmatic program of progressive education, which stressed interaction with the world on a practical, physical level as the best means of developing a child’s mind.
Dewey, Thomas E. (1902–1971) Dewey’s unsuccessful runs for the White House in 1944 (against FDR) and 1948 (against Truman) overshadow his early success as a New York prosecutor. Between 1935 and 1937, his prosecution of organized crime in New York resulted in 72 convictions out of 73 prosecutions. In 1942, he was elected to the first of three terms as New York governor and was a powerful Republican political leader.
Dickey, James (1923–1997) Dickey earned his literary reputation as a poet (the 1965 Buckdancer’s Choice is his best-known collection) and critic, but he became a popular literary sensation with his 1970 novel Deliverance, a horror-adventure narrative of canoeing down a Georgia river. He transformed the bestselling novel into a screenplay, which was produced in a 1972 film of the same name.
Dickinson, Emily (1830–1886) Dickinson was born and died in Amherst, Massachusetts. Outwardly, she led an uneventful life. Inwardly, she experienced intense physical and spiritual passion, which found expression in nearly 2,000 lyric poems of striking modernity. Her fame was entirely posthumous, the work of her lifetime not published until well after her death.
Dickinson, John (1732–1808) Dickinson’s 1767–68 Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies crystallized colonial resistance to the oppressive Townshend Acts (1767) and thereby advanced the cause of independence. He served as a delegate from Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress during 1774–1776 and helped draft the Articles of Confederation (1776–1777), under which the revolution was fought. Dickinson served as Delaware delegate to the Constitutional Convention (1787) and was instrumental in defending and promoting the completed document.
Dillinger, John (1902–1934) Dillinger spent most of his adult life as a criminal—primarily a bank robber—and gained the dubious distinction of becoming the first man placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Dillinger was the subject of a long FBI manhunt, which culminated in Chicago, when FBI agents ambushed him in front of the city’s Biograph Theater, shooting him down on July 2, 1934.
Disney, Walt (1901–1966) An animator by vocation, Walter Elias Disney created the animated character of Mickey Mouse in the 1928 short Steamboat Willie and used its success to build a cartoon and entertainment empire, which came to encompass television and two theme parks, Disneyland, which opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955, and Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Florida, shortly before his death. The company Disney founded and built expanded far beyond cartoons and theme parks to become one of the world’s great entertainment corporations.
Dix, Dorothea (1802–1887) A schoolteacher since the age of 14, Dix was asked in 1841 to teach a Sunday school class in the East Cambridge (Massachusetts) House of Correction. While there, she was appalled by the inhumane treatment of the mentally ill, who were jailed with criminals and without regard to age or sex. They were often left naked, in darkness, sometimes chained, frequently flogged. Dix began a campaign to reform the treatment of the mentally ill, and in 1843 submitted to the Massachusetts legislature a detailed report of conditions in the state’s institutions. Over the next 40 years, Dix inspired legislators in 15 states and Canada to establish state hospitals for the mentally ill. Her work spread to Europe as well. By the time of the Civil War, Dix had earned such a formidable reputation that she was made superintendent of nurses for the Union army.
Dodge, Grenville Mellon (1831–1916) Dodge served as an engineer during the Civil War, building bridges and railroads for the Union war effort, then, from 1866 to 1870 was chief engineer for construction of the Union Pacific Railroad, which provided an overland rail link from coast to coast. From 1873 on, Dodge engineered nearly 9,000 miles of railway in the American Southwest.
Dole, Sanford (1844–1926) Dole grew up in Hawaii, the son of American Protestant missionaries. After a mainland education, he practiced law in Honolulu (1869–1887) and served in the Hawaiian legislature. He led a reform movement to adopt a constitution in 1887 and in 1893, acting on behalf of American sugar interests in Hawaii, helped engineer the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and obtain annexation by the United States. When U.S. president Grover Cleveland blocked annexation and demanded the restoration of Liliuokalani, Dole and others created the Republic of Hawaii (1894). As president of the republic, Dole continued to seek annexation, which came in 1900. President William McKinley named Dole territorial governor.
Donnelly, Ignatius (1831–1901) Born in Philadelphia, Donnelly settled in Minnesota, where he won election as lieutenant governor and congressman (1863–1869). He left the Republicans in the 1870s to form a succession of liberal third-party movements representing farmers and working men and opposing bankers and financiers, whom he attacked as public enemies. Donnelly wrote a series of highly popular visionary novels, including Atlantis (which portrayed the origin of civilization in the lost continent of Atlantis), Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel (which related certain gravel deposits to an ancient near-collision of the earth and a comet), and, most important, Caesar’s Column (1891), a futurist work that predicted radio, television, and poison gas and that pictured the United States in 1988 ruled by a financial oligarchy that tyrannizes over a downtrodden working class.
Donovan, William “Wild Bill” (1883–1959) Trained as a lawyer, Donovan served with distinction in World War I and earned the Medal of Honor. Between the wars, he returned to law, serving as a district attorney and as assistant U.S. attorney general as well as practicing privately. On the eve of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Donovan to create a central intelligence service for the United States. This became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), of which Donovan was named chief on June 13, 1942. Throughout World War II, the OSS collected foreign intelligence, carried out counterpropaganda operations, and, most daringly, covert actions in enemy and occupied countries. After the war, the OSS served as a model for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Doolittle, James H. (1896–1993) Doolittle was an aviation pioneer, who combined seat-of-the-pants daring with advanced academic study of aeronautics (earning an MIT doctorate). He served as an army pilot in World War I, established a number of aviation speed records between the wars, then resumed active military service in World War II. Shortly after the U.S. entered the war, as Japan moved from triumph to triumph in the Pacific, Doolittle led an extraordinary raid on Tokyo and other Japanese cities using 16 twin-engine B-25 bombers launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet—on the face of it an impossible feat. The April 18, 1942, raid was successful, and although it had all the earmarks of a suicide mission, most of the aircrews, including Doolittle, returned.
Dorr, Thomas (1805–1854) A lawyer by profession, Dorr served in the Rhode Island legislature (from 1834) but failed to reform the conservative state constitution, which was essentially unchanged since Rhode Island had been established as a colony in 1663. In 1841, Dorr founded the People’s Party, which, acting on its own, called a convention, drafted and adopted a new constitution, and, on May 3, 1842, held elections that installed Dorr as governor. A small war broke out, and Dorr, tried for treason, was sentenced in 1844 to life imprisonment. He was released after serving a year.
Dos Passos, John (1896–1970) After graduating from Harvard in 1916, Dos Passos volunteered as an ambulance driver in World War I and, like many young men of his age, was emotionally scarred by the experience, becoming one of the so-called “Lost Generation.” After the war, Dos Passos became deeply involved in the struggle for social justice, culminating in his efforts to save the Anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, charged with murder. After their execution in 1927, he set to work on his masterpiece, the epic trilogy U.S.A., which depicts America as “two nations,” one of the wealthy and the other of the poor.
Douglas, Stephen A. (1813–1861) An Illinois politician, noted orator, and leader of the Democratic Party in the years before the Civil War, Douglas sought compromise in the slavery issue by arguing for popular sovereignty, whereby the citizens of each territory would, when applying for statehood, vote their territory free or slave without intervention by the federal government. This (among other things)became the subject of the seminal Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, which eloquently articulated the crisis facing the nation on the brink of civil war. Douglas defeated Lincoln in his bid for the Senate.
Douglas, William O. (1898–1980) Douglas graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, in 1920, and worked his way cross country in 1922 to enroll in Columbia University Law School. He graduated second in his class, practiced corporate law briefly, taught, worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission, and in 1939 was appointed to the Supreme Court by Franklin Roosevelt. Douglas was an uncompromising defender of the Bill of Rights, especially free speech and the rights of those accused of crimes. His views made him a target of conservatives.
Douglass, Frederick (1818?–1895) Raised a slave, Douglass escaped to New York in 1838 and soon earned fame for his eloquent personal perspective on the evil of slavery. He became an abolitionist lecturer and in 1845 wrote a stirring autobiography, The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, which was published in its final form as The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Douglass, a strong advocate of the enlistment of black troops, served Abraham Lincoln as an adviser during the Civil War. After the war, he became a champion of women’s rights, and he served in several high-level U.S. government posts—the first African American to do so.
Dreiser, Theodore (1871–1945) Born poor in Terre Haute, Indiana, Dreiser became a newspaper reporter, then started writing fiction, beginning with Sister Carrie (1900), the story of a small-town girl who uses men to transform herself into a successful actress. Devoid of Victorian moral judgments, the novel proposed that Carrie’s career was the product of nature: she was naturally stronger and more adaptable than the men she used. Dreiser’s “naturalism” culminated in his masterpiece, An American Tragedy (1925), which used the rise and fall of a man convicted of murder as a microcosm of success and failure in America. Condemned by conventional religious and political leaders of his day, Dreiser helped clear the way for a bold new American literature.
Dubinsky, David (1892–1982) Born in czarist Russia, Dubinsky became a labor leader there and was exiled to Siberia for his “subversive” activities. He escaped and immigrated to the Untied States, where he became president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union ILGWU), which he transformed into a giant organization—growing it from 45,000 to 450,000 members—and a model international union, which pioneered housing, pension plans, and health benefits for its members.
Du Bois, W.E.B. (1868–1963) The first African American to earn a Ph.D. (in sociology, from Harvard, 1895), Du Bois hoped that sociology could be used to win the social changes that would bring equality of treatment and opportunity for the races in America. Disillusioned in this belief, he organized the so-called Niagara Movement, which opposed the “accommodationist” view of Booker T. Washington, who was willing to trade social equality for expanded economic opportunities for black Americans. Arguing that both were immediately necessary, DuBois was instrumental in transforming the Niagara Movement into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Du Bois edited the NAACP’s important magazine, The Crisis, a position that made him for some two decades the most influential leader of black America.
Dulles, Allen (1893–1969) The younger brother of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles served during World War II, from October 1942 to May 1945, as chief of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) branch in Bern, Switzerland, where he was effectively America’s head spymaster in Europe. After the war, Dulles was instrumental in creating the CIA, of which he became director in 1953, overseeing the agency’s expansion during the height of the Cold War.
Dulles, John Foster (1888–1959) A career diplomat, Dulles was one of the architects of the United Nations. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him secretary of state. He served until illness forced his resignation in 1959. As secretary, Dulles formulated much of the policy that would guide the United States through the Cold War. Some condemned him as inflexible, but others saw his unwavering firmness as critically important in containing the expansion of international communism.
du Pont, Eleuthère-Irénée (1771–1834) Born into a prominent French family, E.I. du Pont learned the explosives business at the French gunpowder works before he immigrated to America in 1800. He found American gunpowder to be of low quality and high price, and built a gunpowder plant in 1802 near Wilmington, Delaware, producing a much-improved product, which made him a fortune, especially during the War of 1812. This led to the founding of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. in 1833, which became one of the world’s great chemical manufacturers in areas ranging from explosives to plastics.
Durand, Asher (1796–1886) Durand made his early living as an engraver. After touring Europe in 1840–1841 and studying the work of the old masters, he returned to America and began painting Hudson River, Adirondack, and New England landscapes, rendering them precisely but with a generous Romantic sensibility. Among the founders of the Hudson River School of landscape artists, he was one of the first American painters to work outdoors in nature.
Durant, Will and Ariel (1885–1981 and 1898–1981) Will Durant married his student, Ada Kaufman (whom he called Ariel), while he was teaching at the Ferrer Modern School in New York City in 1913. The couple collaborated on the massive eleven-volume Story of Civilization (1935–1975), which became perhaps the most popular and genuinely authoritative work ever published on philosophy and history, bringing these subjects to a wide audience of general readers.
Duryea, Charles and J. Frank (1861–1938 and 1869–1967) When bicycle mechanic Charles Duryea saw a stationary gasoline engine at a state fair in 1886, he got the idea of using it to power a carriage. He drew up designs, and in 1891 he and his brother Frank built an automobile and an engine in a Springfield, Massachusetts, loft. There is a dispute as to when the vehicle was finally completed, but it made its first run on the streets of Springfield on September 22, 1893.
Dylan, Bob (1941– ) Born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, Dylan reinvented himself as a latter-day Woody Guthrie and made a sensation during the folksong revival of the early 1960s with his 1963 album, Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Combining folk traditions with a uniquely contemporary sensibility, a charismatic stage presence, and often brilliantly poetic lyrics, Dylan was hailed by many as the Shakespeare of his generation. In 1965, he introduced electric instruments, which outraged folk fans, but opened up a new form of expression that partook of rock and roll. Dylan has remained an enduring voice in American popular music—commercially very successful, yet also well apart from corporate music making and marketing.