William Howard Taft is the only individual in United States history to hold both the Presidency and the Chief Justiceship of the Supreme Court.
Taft was born in 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio and earned a Bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1878. He graduated from the Cincinnati Law School in 1880 and was admitted to the Ohio Bar. He was a member of the Yale baseball team and later started the tradition of the President throwing out the first ball on the opening day of the major league baseball season.
Public service was a tradition in the Taft family. William Howard Taft extended it to its limit during his lifetime.
Taft was appointed a Federal Circuit Judge in 1892. He remained on the court until 1900 when President McKinley asked him to head a commission established to ensure the smooth transition of government in the Philippines in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War.
President Theodore Roosevelt named him to Secretary of War in 1904. As Taft’s prestige grew in the administration, so did his influence in the Republican Party. With Roosevelt’s backing, he won the party’s nomination for President and the subsequent election in 1908. He was sworn in as the twenty-seventh President of the United States in March, 1909. His single term in office was not controversial. It saw the development of the postal savings system and the Tariff Board, the intervention of American troops in the affairs of the Dominican Republic, the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and continuation of the trust-busting begun under Theodore Roosevelt.
Soon after he was elected President, Taft began to fall out of favor with former President Roosevelt. The two men came to represent opposing sides of a division within the Republican Party. When Taft was renominated in 1912, Roosevelt ran for President under the banner of his “Bull Moose” Party and effectively splintered the Republican vote, giving the election to democrat Woodrow Wilson.
After leaving the White House, Taft taught Constitutional Law at Yale University, served as President of the American Bar Association, wrote magazine articles and was a frequent participant on the lecture circuit. During this period he also continued discreetly to publicize his desire to be named to the high court.
His greatest ambition was achieved when President Harding named him Chief Justice on June 30, 1921 and he was confirmed by voice vote of the Senate on the same day.
Mr. Taft died in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 1930.
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