On the 15th day of September in 1957, William Howard Taft was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. His mother was Louisa Maria Torrey Taft, and his father was Alphonso Taft, a renowned Republican who worked as attorney general and secretary of war under Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency. Alphonso then also served as an ambassador to Austria-Hungary and Russia during President Chester A. Arthur’s term. The Taft family was not as wealthy, but they lived prudishly in the suburb district of Mount Auburn.
William Howard Taft’s Childhood and Education
Despite his tendencies to becoming obese, William was a relatively active child who took dance lessons and played baseball. While not really regarded as brilliant, he was a hard worker and finished salutatorian at Woodward High School. Following his family tradition, William attended Yale University in Connecticut, graduating second again in his class. Then, he went to his hometown to study in The Cincinnati Law School and earned his law degree. William passed the Ohio Bar Exams in 1880 and entered law practice.
William Howard Taft’s Early Career
Six years after passing the bar exams, William married Helen ‘Nellie’ Herron, the daughter of another prominent Republican lawyer and activist. While William always set his eyes having a seat on the Supreme Court. Nellie, his ambitious wife, had other plans, as she always aspired to become the first lady.
Throughout his career, William accepted various political appointments. In 1881, he first entered politics when he became an assistant prosecutor in Hamilton County. While continuing law practice, he was chosen to be a judge in a Superior Court in Ohio in 1887. Three years later, he was tapped to be a U.S. solicitor general, the justice department’s third-highest position, forcing him to move to Washington, D.C. Then, in 1892, he began serving as a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that had authority over Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.
William Howard Taft’s Journey To The White House
With all his prior experiences, William already made a mark as a member of the Republican Party. True enough, as he was appointed by President McKinley to be the Governor-General of the Philippines in 1990. The Philippines became under the United States control after the Spanish-American War. William was tasked to rehabilitate the country and build a civilian government in the Southeast Asian country. However, it became a daunting task as there were Filipinos who were against American control. As a result, the United States was stained with a bad reputation due to the brutal actions made to halt the rebellious Filipinos. Taft, however, became successful in establishing a constitution that resembled that of the United States, brought a peaceful environment, and improved other aspects of life.In 1904, Willian decided to return to the United States and became the U.S. Secretary of War under Theodore Roosevelt. However, it happened under one condition. He still remained in-charge of Filipino affairs. During his four-year term, Willaim traveled a lot and even oversaw Panama Canal’s construction and also acted as Cuba’s provisional governor.
Roosevelt, who promised not to run on this third term, tapped William to be his successor. Even though he disliked doing campaigns, William was urged by his wife and agreed to run. He won over Democrat William Jennings Bryan by promising to sustain the progressive reforms made by Roosevelt.
William Howard Taft’s Presidency
While he promised to continue Roosevelt’s programs, William didn’t have the charisma and vigor the former so much had. Initially, he was active in his ‘trust-busting’ campaign, being able to file around 80 anti-trusts cases against industrial companies. However, he soon toned down the efforts and followed the conservative approach of the Republican Party.
In 1909, William conducted a special session of Congress to discuss the reforms on tariff policies. It ignited the protectionist majority of the Republican party to act and resulted in the ratification of the Payne-Aldrich Act. While the progressive side of the Republican thought William would veto the bill, he did otherwise and signed it into law, defending that it was the best tariff act the Republican Party has created.
Another blunder during his term is when William supported the policies of Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger and fired Gifford Pinchot, a conservationist, a close friend of Roosevelt, and the leading critic of Ballinger. This issue further divided the Republican party and ended the Taft-Roosevelt friendship.
While there were missteps, there were also good points during William’s presidency, which includes his trust-busting efforts, his support for reforms and constitutional amendments, and the start of the Senatorial elections (which were previously chosen by state legislatures.)After one term, William went back to Yale University, where he took a teaching position in the university’s law school. In 1921, his original dream of becoming part of the Supreme Court came true when he was appointed as the chief justice during President Warren G. Harding’s term. William Howard Taft became the only individual in American history who served both as a President and a Supreme Court Chief Justice.