Portraits: William Howard Taft   Leave a comment

William Howard Taft (1857 – 1930)

Taft was not a small man.

Taft was not a small man.

The 27th President of the United States, 1909 – 1913

AKA: Big Lub, Big Chief

From: Ohio

College: Yale University, University of Cincinnati College Of Law

Married to: Helen Herron

Children: Robert, Helen, Charles

Party: Republican

Previous Jobs: Journalist, lawyer, Collector of Internal Revenue, Superior Court Judge, US Solicitor General, US Court of Appeals Judge, Governor-General of the Philippines, Secretary of War, Provisional Governor of Cuba, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court (after his Presidential term)

In His Words: “The welfare of the farmer is vital to that of the whole country.”

“The diplomacy of the present administration has sought to respond to modern ideas of commercial intercourse. This policy has been characterized as substituting dollars for bullets. It is one that appeals alike to idealistic humanitarian sentiments, to the dictates of sound policy and strategy, and to legitimate commercial aims.”

“The intoxication of power rapidly sobers off in the knowledge of its restrictions and under the prompt reminder of an ever-present and not always considerate press, as well as the kindly suggestions that not infrequently come from Congress.”

“We are all imperfect. We can not expect perfect government.”

“Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.”

“Socialism proposes no adequate substitute for the motive of enlightened selfishness that to-day is at the basis of all human labor and effort, enterprise and new activity.”

“Enthusiasm for a cause sometimes warps judgment.”

Not true: Many accounts credit Taft with the creation of baseball’s “seventh inning stretch,” but this is not proven.  Indeed, the practice is described as early as 1869, well before Taft’s supposed 1910 stretching of his legs at a Washington Senators game.

True: William Howard Taft started the tradition of the President throwing out the first ball at the beginning of baseball season.

He was the first President to take up golf, which was thought by some to be indecent if not immoral. His love for the sport did help spur an increase in the number of golfers in the nation, doubling the number of players on public courses. As with all Presidents, Taft’s affection for a recreational pastime caused political problems when critics suggested he should work more and play less.

Blame Taft: under his watch, the 16th Amendment was passed, legalizing the income tax.  No wonder he’s viewed poorly by many Presidential scholars.

Taft was the fattest President, tipping the scale at over 300 pounds.

After getting stuck in the White House bath tub, he had a very large bathtub installed, supposedly large enough for four men.

His close friend Teddy Roosevelt offered him a Supreme Court nomination many times, but Taft always refused because of unfinished work (principally while he was Governor-General of the Philippines).

His later break with Roosevelt (who felt he was not Progressive enough) led Roosevelt to oppose Taft’s re-election and found the Bull Moose party for the 1912 election.  The three-party election was won easily by the Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

Taft is the only President to also serve as the Supreme Court Chief Justice, where he initiated many reforms and administrative efficiencies.

Taft is the last President to have facial hair.

The Official Portrait: Painted in the White House Blue Room by Anders Zorn.  The portrait still hangs in this room.

William Taft, Official Presidential Portrait


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