Presidential Trivia – William Howard Taft

Think you know a lot about the President of the United States?  Let us dig down into the dustbin of history and see what we can find.

Our candidate today is:  William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States and later 10th Chief Justice of the United States

  • Born September 15, 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Died March 8, 1930 (aged 72)in Washington, D.C.
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Childhood and school activities:  church; baseball; Linonian Society for literary study and debating; member of Beta chapter of the Psi Upsilon fraternity; legacy member of Skull and Bones secret society co-founded by his father; Yale’s intramural heavyweight wrestling champion
  • Education:  Graduated from Yale College (1878); Cincinnati Law School (1880)
  • Military Service:  42nd United States Secretary of War, February 1, 1904 – June 30, 1908
  • Civilian profession: Lawyer, Jurist
  • Married to Helen Louise Herron “Nellie” Taft (June 2, 1861 – May 22, 1943) on June 19, 1886, at the home of the bride’s parents in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Children: Robert Alphonso Taft, Helen Herron Taft Manning, Charles Phelps Taft II
  • Political Party – Republican
  • Term of office:  March 4, 1909 – March 4, 1913
  • Only President to become a Chief Justice of the United States.  as Chief Justice, was the only President to swear into office another President (Calvin Coolidge in 1925 and Herbert Hoover in 1929).
  • Hand picked by President Theodore Roosevelt as his successor.  Taft easily won election against William Jennings Bryan.
  • Appointed in 1900 by President William McKinley as chairman of commission to organize civilian government in the Philippines. U.S. been ceded the islands by Spain following the Spanish–American War and the 1898 Treaty of Paris. Taft told McKinley his real ambition was to become a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States but that he would reluctantly accept the appointment.
  • Taft served as Governor-General of the Philippines from July 4, 1901 – December 23, 1903.  In 1902, he negotiated purchase of church-owned lands in the Philippines from Pope Leo XIII and the subsequent sale of those lands to the Philippine people.
  • Though elected as a Republican, Roosevelt had understood that Taft was a progressive at heart and would continue and expand on many of his policies.
  • Taft began an initiative of “Dollar Diplomacy” – send money and exert financial pressure rather than expending bullets and sending soldiers.  This was especially prevalent in relations with Central and South American countries.
  • Taft publicly endorsed Booker T. Washington’s program to uplift African-Americans.  However, he encouraged them to focus on education and entrepreneurship while avoiding participating in current politics.
  • Taft supported income taxes for corporations and individuals.  The 16th Amendment to the Constitution (allowing income taxes) passed during his administration.
  • New Mexico and Arizona were admitted to the Union while he was President.
  • As First Lady, Mrs. Taft joined with the wife of the Japanese ambassador to have 3020 Japanese cherry trees planted around Washington, D.C.
  • President Taft was the last to keep a cow at the White house; it was there to supply fresh milk.  He was the first to own an automobile.
  • In 1910, Taft became the first President to throw the first ball of a baseball season (Senators vs. Athletics 3-0).  The ball was thrown from the stands to the pitcher rather than the current mound-to-catcher method.  He is also (inaccurately) credited with beginning the tradition of the seventh-inning stretch.
  • Taft weighed 330 pounds and stood 6’2″ when he became President.  Shortly after taking office he found himself stuck in the standard-sized tub in the White House.  It took six attendants to extricate him.  A custom tub big enough for four was quickly installed.
  • As Chief Justice, Taft successfully argued that the Supreme Court needed its own building so as to distance itself from the other branches of government.  Until then the Court met in the Capitol, even in the basement.
  • William Howard Taft was the first president to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  His wife is interred there with him.
  • Hobbies:  golf (first President to actively participate in the sport while in office)
  • Famous quotes:

“The world is not going to be saved by legislation.”

“Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever.”

“Politics makes me sick.”

William Howard Taft presidential portrait

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