Our 27th President: 1909-1913
Just the Facts:
- His nickname was “Big Bill.” In fact, he weighed over 300 pounds when he was president.
- Once he got stuck in the White House bathtub. After that, he had a larger tub installed just for him.
- He loved baseball – to watch it, play it and talk about it.
- He was the first President to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game.
- He is the only man to serve as both President and Chief Justice.
- He was the first President to have an official car.
William was born into a prominent family and grew up in the “Queen City” – Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated top of his class at Yale University and went on to get his law degree. He was extraordinarily smart and had a great legal mind. Before becoming president, he held a number of government positions – he was a judge on the US Court of Appeals, he was both Attorney General and Governor of the Philippines under President McKinley, and was Secretary of War under President Roosevelt. Taft and Roosevelt were great friends and Roosevelt convinced him to run for president after him.
Taft wasn’t particularly happy as president. He was a great administrator, but didn’t like the “politics.” Taft continued Roosevelt’s progressive policies like “trust-busting” and land conservation in his own way. But, in general he was more conservative and questioned how much power the president should have. Taft’s foreign policy was called “Dollar Diplomacy” – he used financial aid to countries as a way of gaining allies and gaining world power.
Roosevelt wasn’t happy with some of Taft’s policies and ran against him in the 1913 presidential election. They both lost. Taft’s life dream came true after his presidency ended. He was appointed as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court – the highest court in America! So, he was in charge of 2 out of the 3 branches of government during his life – the executive branch when he was president, and in charge of the judicial branch when he was chief justice. He used his power as chief justice to reform the court system.
William married Nellie in 1886. When Nellie was a child, she visited the White House and loved the excitement of Washington DC. When she met William, she was working as a schoolteacher. She enthusiastically supported his political goals and welcomed every challenge, including moving her family to the Philippines.
Unfortunately, Nellie suffered a stroke two months after Taft’s inauguration. She recovered and became famous for her social events and elegant parties. Nellie Taft oversaw the planting of thousands of cherry trees along the Potomac River in Washington DC – they were all a gift from Japan. She also had the White House stables converted to a garage for their car.
“Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever.”
“A government is for the benefit of all the people.”
“We are all imperfect. We can not expect perfect government.”
“Failure to accord credit to anyone for what he may have done is a great weakness in any man.”
“Don’t write so that you can be understood, write so that you can’t be misunderstood.”