William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft

  • Ranked #27: Taft always wanted to the Chief Justice of the Untied States as opposed to a US President. In fact one of the only reasons he became President is because of his wife's desire to live in the White House. To be fair, he didn't perform badly in office as much as simply was uninterested.
  • Summary: Taft was a jolly fellow who was known for his chuckle. Not a laugh, snicker or a giggle - it was a contagious chuckle. He was popular and had many friends. At the same time, he rarely had confidants he could talk to about tough issues. This often left him testy and unhappy during his time in office.
  • Bio: If Taft was known for anything, it was the fact that he was the largest president ever to serve in office. He maxed out at 332 pounds. He even installed a bathtub in the White House that could fit four normal-sized men. There is even a funny story about when he was the Governor-General of the Philippines. He wired to a friend in the US that he had taken a three-hour horseback ride one afternoon and was feeling fine. He soon received a reply asking if the horse was OK. He typically ate a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon and a great deal of pancakes for breakfast that left him sluggish in the morning.
    He was the first President to take up golf as a pastime as well as the first President to kick baseball seasons off officially by throwing out the first pitch at a professional game. He was also the first President who used an automobile as his main source of transportation. Possibly because of his size (or his gigantic meals in the morning), he had a habit of falling asleep at almost every opportunity if he was seated for an extended amount of time. This included, but was not limited to, meetings, funerals and even parades. It got to the point that he had a man assigned to him whose sole purpose was to wake the President up at these times.
    One interesting thing about Taft’s career was that he was virtually hand-picked by Theodore Roosevelt to be his running mate and eventually his successor as President. This was a somewhat odd arrangement, since it could be suggested that they had nothing in common. Roosevelt was energetic and progressive-thinking while you could say that Taft was the exact opposite. Taft was a big fan of Roosevelt and Theodore apparently enjoyed every minute of it. This must have been a big disappointment when Taft became President and nearly reversed every progressive item that Roosevelt had fought so hard to place into law. It got so bad that Roosevelt opposed Taft when he ran for re-election, running against him on the Bull Moose ticket; a bold name for a political party, but let’s get back to Taft.
    Both Taft and Roosevelt lost the 1912 election to Woodrow Wilson since they more or less split the conservative vote. Taft was not necessarily sad to walk away from office and had stated for the record previously how much he hated politics. He would eventually go on to get the job he always wanted. Warren Harding appointed Taft Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, a position he held until his death in 1930.
    Taft will always be tied to Roosevelt and it was always going to be a hard to live up to his personality and legacy. Taft was not a gifted politician or even a strong leader. He would typically contemplate every single angle of an issue and often came up with no opinion. He was a kind man who wanted to be appreciated as a person. There were few accomplishments to speak of. You can argue that he never wanted to be President in the first place. Had it not been for his wife’s desire to live in the White House, he might never have attempted it.
  • Pros: Promoted peace in foreign affairs. Supported the 17th amendment, allowing people to vote for their own Senators. Initiated 80 anti-trust suits. Fought against government corruption and corporate monopolies. Empowered the Interstate Commerce Commission to set it's own rates.
  • Cons: Passed legislation that discriminated against African Americans in government positions. He was racist. Caused a division within the his own political party. Sided with business interests rather than conservation efforts.
  • Born: September 15, 1857, Cincinnati, OH
  • Died: March 8, 1930 (aged 72) Washington, D.C.
  • Term: March 4, 1909 to March 3, 1913 (1 term )
  • Political Party: Republican
  • Religion: Unitarian
  • Education: Yale College (graduated 1878), Cincinnati Law School (LL.B., 1880)
  • Marriage: June 19, 1886, to Helen Herron (1861–1943)
  • Children: Robert Alphonso (1889–1953), Helen Herron (1891–1987), Charles Phelps (1897–1983)
  • Career: Lawyer, Public Official
  • Vice President: James S. Sherman