William H. Taft

William H. Taft, 1911 oil on canvas by Anders Zorn

William H. Taft, 1911 oil on canvas by Anders Zorn

William H. Taft was the twenty-seventh President of the United States. He served from 1909 to 1915. He was born on September 15, 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father was a prominent attorney.

Taft was a scholar and athlete, excelling in wrestling and boxing as well as his studies where he usually ranked first in his class. He entered Yale University in 1874, graduating in 1978 at the age of twenty. During his college years, his father served in President Grant’s cabinet as both Attorney General and Secretary of War.

After Yale, Taft went to the Cincinnati Law School, and graduated in 1880. He was appointed assistant prospecting attorney in 1881, then President Authur appointed him tax collector for the first district. His father was then appointed Ambassador to Austria-Hungary and in 1883, Taft resigned and spent several months with his father in Europe, then joined his father’s law firm.

He married Helen ‘Nellie” Herron in June of 1886. They had two sons and a daughter. She was the daughter of the law partners of Rutherford B. Hayes. One of their sons became a US Senator and the other the mayor of Cincinnati.

In 1887, Taft was appointed a judge, then was elected to the court for five years. He resigned when appointed as US Solicitor General 1890. He had a good record, including winning an important anti-trust suit. He was then appointed judge of the US 6th circuit court of appeals where he served from 1892-1990. He was also a professor of law and dean of the law department at University of Cincinnati.

McKinley appointed Taft President of the US Philippines Commission in 1900 and he moved with his family to Manila. Once there he accepted appointment as the islands first civil governor. He worked hard and was very committed to making things work.

In 1904, Roosevelt appointed Taft Secretary of War. He became the most active and traveled of people in his job. He went to Japan in 1905 and 1906 to Cuba to intervene in a threatened revolution.

It was obvious by 1906 that Taft was Roosevelt’s chosen successor. His wife also had those ambitions for her husband. He won nomination in 1908 and the Democrats again ran William Jennings Bryan. Taft was elected with a strong majority.

Taft began his administration with high hopes. He reduced tariffs and proposed an income tax. However, the tariff bill was sabotaged by the Republicans, his own party, in 1909. He also established postal savings and parcel post.

Liberal Republicans then turned against Taft. He began to flounder in the job. Roosevelt even turned against him, feeling he was not carrying out the progressive policies he should. Taft began to despair in the face of what Roosevelt called “the new nationalism”.

Taft was renominated by the party regulars in 1912. But Roosevelt formed his own party (the Progressive Party) and ran himself. The Democrats nominated Woodrow Wilson. Taft ran hard, but finished third, behind Wilson, who won, and Roosevelt.

In his final State of the Union address, Taft covered international relations, the economy, and tried to brush things over. For instance, he gave no hint about what was to come in Europe. He did put forth a call for some “needed reforms”, including the Lincoln Memorial.

Taft left the White House disillusioned with politics. He had been appointed to his positions over the years and never understood the rough and tumble of politics. It was hard for him to try to satisfy all involved.

At fifty-five, he accepted appointment as a law professor at Yale. He was popular with the students and enjoyed his time immensely. During World War I, he served on the War Labor Board.

Taft supported Harding for the Presidency and when Harding was elected, Taft hoped he would be appointed to the Supreme Court. When the Chief Justice died shortly after the inauguration, Taft was appointed to the role. The last nine years were the happiest of his life. In February 1930, he resigned as Chief Justice because of a heart attack. He died a month later.

William H. Taft Facts

  • President No.: 27th
  • When did William Howard Taft serve? 1909-1913
  • What was William Howard Taft’s party? Republican
  • Where was William Howard Taft from? Ohio
  • Who was William Howard Taft’s wife? Helen Taft
  • When was William Howard Taft born? September 15, 1857
  • When did William Howard Taft die? March 8, 1930
  • Which college did William Howard Taft attend? Yale College, Cincinnati Law School
  • What was William Howard Taft’s Jobs Before President? Federal circuit judge, professor of law at Yale, Secretary of War
  • What was William Howard Taft’s height? 6 feet
  • What was the population when William Howard Taft was president? 95,972,266
  • What hobbies did William Howard Taft have? Golf, riding
  • What pets did William Howard Taft have? Cow named Pauline Wayne
  • What transportation did William Howard Taft use? Car, train
  • How did William Howard Taft communicate? Telephone, typed letter. telegram


William H. Taft State of the Union Addresses

William H. Taft Speeches

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