Paul Douglas was an educator, economist, a decorated Marine Corps officer, and a Democratic U.S. senator. He was often called an unconventional or maverick liberal because he was an avocate of civil rights but also fought for fiscal spending controls. He was an internationalist in favor of liberal values and human rights but he was also a staunch anti-Communist who wanted to work through the UN to stop Communist expansion. Paul was born on March 26, 1892 in Salem, Massachusetts and mostly grew up in Newport, Maine. He graduated with honors from Bowdoin College in 1913 and later received both a Master's Degree and a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University. He married Dorothy Wolff in 1915 who was also a Ph.D. from Columbia. From 1915 to 1920, Douglas taught at different schools including the University of Illinois.
In 1921, Paul accepted a position with the faculty of the University of Chicago in the economics department. The Cobb-Douglas Function in economic theory was named for Douglas. Through meetings with social reformer Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House, Douglas became interested in political activism. His teaching career at the University of Chicago was interrrupted in the late 1920s when his first wife Dorothy wanted him to teach near her in the East. They divorced in 1930 and in 1931 Paul married his second wife Emily Taft, who was from a socially prominent family in Chicago and was also a social reformer. She was also a distant cousin to President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft of Ohio.