Thursday, October 11, 2012

10 Fun Facts About William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States

1. William Howard Taft was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1857.  His father, Alphonso Taft, was a prominent lawyer who later served as both Attorney General and Secretary of War under Ulysses S. Grant.

2. Like his father before him, Taft attended Yale, graduating second in his class, then returned to Cincinnati in 1878 to study law.  He met Nellie Herron the following year, and they were married in 1886.  Nellie's father was a law partner of president Rutherford B. Hayes.  Nellie suffered a stroke just a few months after her husband became president and she never fully recovered.

3. Taft rose in prominence very quickly after being admitted to the Ohio bar in 1880.  He served first as an Assistant Prosecutor in Cincinnati, and by 1887, at only 30 years of age, he was elected as a judge to the Ohio Superior Court in Cincinnati.  Three years later, Benjamin Harrison appointed him as Solicitor General of the United States, arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

4. Following his term as Solicitor General, Taft was appointed in 1892 as a judge to the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.  During his time as a circuit judge, his old law school was merged with the University of Cincinnati to become UC's College of Law, and Taft served as its first dean and taught Constitutional Law there.

5. Taft's lifelong ambition had been to serve as a justice for the U.S. Supreme Court, and everything he had done in his career up to that time had been in preparation for this goal.  However, in 1900, William McKinley asked him to take part in organizing a government for the Philippines, which had just been ceded to the United States as a result of the Spanish-American war.  Taft reluctantly agreed, becoming Governor-General of the new territory in 1901.

6. Following McKinley's death in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt offered to nominate Taft to the Supreme Court, and although this was Taft's undoubted ambition, he declined the offer because he felt that his job was not yet done in the Philippines.  Instead, Taft became Secretary of War in 1904, a position which would allow him to continue his work in building the Philippines.  He again turned down an offer for the Supreme Court in 1906.

7. Although he regretted his decision, Roosevelt had promised, in 1904, not to run for re-election in 1908.  Since Taft had become such a prominent figure in Roosevelt's cabinet by this time, it was apparent to everyone that he was the logical choice of the Republican party for the 1908 presidential election.  Though Taft still wanted ultimately to serve on the Supreme Court, he accepted the nomination at the urging of numerous friends and companions, including his wife.  The extremely popular Roosevelt heartily supported his campaign and Taft won easily, taking 66% of the electoral vote.

8. During his time in the White House, Taft departed from many of the progressive standards established by his predecessor, and by 1912, Roosevelt was so disgusted with his former protege that he decided to challenge Taft for the 1912 Republican nomination.  Twelve states held primaries that year, and Roosevelt won nine of them, while Taft won only one (the others went to a third candidate).  Despite this, Taft managed to outmaneuver Roosevelt at the national convention, and ultimately won the nomination.  Roosevelt, however, formed his own party, the Progressive Party, and ran on that ticket.  With the Republican votes thus split, Democrat Woodrow Wilson won easily.  Roosevelt, on the Progressive Party ticket, won more of the percentage vote, and more of the electoral vote, than Taft on the Republican ticket, making Taft's defeat the worst in U.S. history of an incumbent president.  It is also the only time since the advent of the 2-party system that one of the major parties has come in third in an election.

9. Following his presidency, Taft taught law at Yale, and vigorously opposed the prohibition movement, which had been gaining steam for some time.  In 1921, when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court died, president Warren G. Harding nominated ex-president Taft to succeed him.  His nomination was easily ratified by the Senate, and thus Taft became the first and only person in U.S. history to lead both the Executive and Judicial branches of the U.S. government.

10. Taft is most commonly remembered today for his corpulence.  While president, he famously became stuck in a White House bathtub and rescuers had to use butter to help free him.  He is known to have suffered from sleep apnea due to his weight, and there are numerous contemporary reports of his prodigious appetite and his flatulence problem.  He retired from the Supreme Court in 1930 and died several weeks later.  He and John F. Kennedy are the only two presidents buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Orthodontist Chicago said...

Excellent post. I enjoyed it.

Scott said...

Thank you very much. Glad you enjoyed it!