William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft cph.3b35813.jpg
27th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1909 – March 4, 1913
Vice PresidentJames S. Sherman (1909–1912)
None (1912–1913)[a]
Preceded byTheodore Roosevelt
Succeeded byWoodrow Wilson
10th Chief Justice of the United States
In office
July 11, 1921 – February 3, 1930
Nominated byWarren G. Harding
Preceded byEdward Douglass White
Succeeded byCharles Evans Hughes
42nd United States Secretary of War
In office
February 1, 1904 – June 30, 1908
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byElihu Root
Succeeded byLuke Edward Wright
1st Provisional Governor of Cuba
In office
September 29, 1906 – October 13, 1906
Appointed byTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byTomás Estrada Palma
(as President)
Succeeded byCharles Edward Magoon
Governor-General of the Philippines
In office
July 4, 1901 – December 23, 1903
Appointed byWilliam McKinley
Preceded byArthur MacArthur, Jr.
(Military Governor)
Succeeded byLuke Edward Wright
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
In office
March 17, 1892 – March 15, 1900
Appointed byBenjamin Harrison
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded byHenry Franklin Severens
6th Solicitor General of the United States
In office
February 4, 1890 – March 20, 1892[1]
PresidentBenjamin Harrison
Preceded byOrlow W. Chapman
Succeeded byCharles H. Aldrich
Personal details
Born(1857-09-15)September 15, 1857
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
DiedMarch 8, 1930(1930-03-08) (aged 72)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)
Helen Herron (m. 1886)
Children
ParentsAlphonso Taft
Lousia Maria Torrey
EducationYale University (BA)
University of Cincinnati (LLB)
SignatureCursive signature in ink

William Howard Taft (September 15, 1857 – March 8, 1930) was the 27th president of the United States (1909–1913) and the tenth chief justice of the United States (1921–1930), the only person to have held both offices. Taft was elected president in 1908, the chosen successor of Theodore Roosevelt, but was defeated for re-election by Woodrow Wilson in 1912 after Roosevelt split the Republican vote by running as a third-party candidate. In 1921, President Warren G. Harding appointed Taft to be chief justice, a position in which he served until a month before his death.

Taft was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1857. His father, Alphonso Taft, was a U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of War. Taft attended Yale and, like his father, was a member of Skull and Bones. After becoming a lawyer, Taft was appointed a judge while still in his twenties. He continued a rapid rise, being named Solicitor General and as a judge of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1901, President William McKinley appointed Taft civilian governor of the Philippines. In 1904, Roosevelt made him Secretary of War, and he became Roosevelt's hand-picked successor. Despite his personal ambition to become chief justice, Taft declined repeated offers of appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States, believing his political work to be more important.

With Roosevelt's help, Taft had little opposition for the Republican nomination for president in 1908 and easily defeated William Jennings Bryan for the presidency that November. In the White House, he focused on East Asia more than European affairs and repeatedly intervened to prop up or remove Latin American governments. Taft sought reductions to trade tariffs, then a major source of governmental income, but the resulting bill was heavily influenced by special interests. His administration was filled with conflict between the conservative wing of the Republican Party, with which Taft often sympathized, and the progressive wing, toward which Roosevelt moved more and more. Controversies over conservation and antitrust cases filed by the Taft administration served to further separate the two men. Roosevelt challenged Taft for renomination in 1912. Taft used his control of the party machinery to gain a bare majority of delegates and Roosevelt bolted the party. The split left Taft with little chance of re-election and he took only Utah and Vermont in Wilson's victory.

After leaving office, Taft returned to Yale as a professor, continuing his political activity and working against war through the League to Enforce Peace. In 1921, President Harding appointed Taft as chief justice, an office he had long sought. Chief Justice Taft was a conservative on business issues and under him there were advances in individual rights. In poor health, he resigned in February 1930, and died the following month. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, the first president and first Supreme Court justice to be interred there. Taft is generally listed near the middle in historians' rankings of U.S. presidents.

Early life and education

Yale College photograph of Taft

William Howard Taft was born September 15, 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Alphonso Taft and Louise Torrey.[2] The Taft family was not wealthy, living in a modest home in the suburb of Mount Auburn. Alphonso served as a judge, ambassador and in the cabinet, as War Secretary and Attorney General under Ulysses S. Grant.[3]

William Taft was not seen as brilliant as a child, but was a hard worker; Taft's demanding parents pushed him and his four brothers toward success, tolerating nothing less. He attended Woodward High School in Cincinnati. At Yale College, which he entered in 1874, the heavyset, jovial Taft was popular, and was an intramural heavyweight wrestling champion. One classmate described him succeeding through hard work rather than being the smartest, and as having integrity.[4][5] In 1878, Taft graduated, second in his class out of 121.[6] He attended Cincinnati Law School,[7] and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 1880. While in law school, he worked on The Cincinnati Commercial newspaper,[6] edited by Murat Halstead. Taft was assigned to cover the local courts, and also spent time reading law in his father's office; both activities gave him practical knowledge of the law that was not taught in class. Shortly before graduating from law school, Taft went to the state capital of Columbus to take the bar examination and easily passed.[8]