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William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States and later the 10th Chief Justice of the United States,…

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William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States and later the 10th Chief Justice of the United States, had a significant impact on both the executive and judicial branches of the U.S. government.

Early Life and Education
Birth: William Howard Taft was born on September 15, 1857, in Cincinnati, Ohio, into a prominent family. His father, Alphonso Taft, served as Secretary of War and Attorney General under President Ulysses S. Grant.
Education: Taft attended Yale University, where he graduated second in his class in 1878. He then studied law at Cincinnati Law School, earning his degree in 1880.

Early Career
Legal and Judicial Positions: After passing the bar, Taft began his career as a lawyer and quickly moved into public service. He held several judicial and administrative positions, including Assistant Prosecutor for Hamilton County, Ohio, and Judge of the Ohio Superior Court.
Solicitor General: In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Taft as Solicitor General of the United States. He argued several important cases before the Supreme Court, establishing a reputation for fairness and competence.
Federal Judge: In 1892, Taft was appointed as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He served in this capacity for eight years, gaining further legal and judicial experience.

Governor-General of the Philippines
Philippine Commission: In 1900, President William McKinley appointed Taft to head the Philippine Commission, charged with establishing civil government in the Philippines following the Spanish-American War.
Governor-General: Taft became the first civilian Governor-General of the Philippines in 1901. He implemented various reforms, including improving infrastructure, establishing a public education system, and promoting economic development.

Secretary of War
Appointment: In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Taft as Secretary of War. In this role, Taft supervised the construction of the Panama Canal and traveled extensively to oversee U.S. interests abroad.

Presidency (1909-1913)
Election: Taft won the presidency in 1908 with Roosevelt’s endorsement, defeating Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan. He was inaugurated as the 27th President on March 4, 1909.
Domestic Policies: Taft’s administration focused on trust-busting, tariff reform, and strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission. He pursued antitrust lawsuits against major corporations, including Standard Oil and American Tobacco.
Payne-Aldrich Tariff: Taft signed the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act in 1909, which was intended to lower tariffs but was criticized for its limited reductions and perceived favoritism towards big business.
Conservation: Although Taft continued some of Roosevelt’s conservation policies, he faced criticism from progressives for his perceived lack of commitment to environmental protection.

Post-Presidency and Supreme Court
Election of 1912: Taft ran for re-election in 1912 but faced a split in the Republican Party. Roosevelt, dissatisfied with Taft’s policies, formed the Progressive Party, leading to a three-way race. Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the election, with Taft finishing third.
Academic Career: After leaving the presidency, Taft taught law at Yale University and remained active in public affairs.
Chief Justice of the United States: In 1921, President Warren G. Harding appointed Taft as Chief Justice of the United States, fulfilling Taft’s lifelong ambition. He remains the only person to have served as both President and Chief Justice.
Judicial Reforms: As Chief Justice, Taft worked to modernize the federal judiciary, advocating for the Judiciary Act of 1925, which gave the Supreme Court greater control over its docket. He also oversaw the construction of the Supreme Court Building.

Legacy and Personal Life
Legacy: Taft is remembered for his contributions to both the executive and judicial branches of government. His presidency is often viewed as less dynamic than Roosevelt’s, but his tenure as Chief Justice is highly regarded for its focus on judicial efficiency and administration.
Personal Life: Taft married Helen Herron in 1886, and they had three children. Helen was an influential First Lady, known for her support of education and the arts.
Death: William Howard Taft died on March 8, 1930, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He was the first president to be interred there.


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William Howard Taft: The American Presidents Series: The 27th President, 1909-1913
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William Howard Taft: The biography of the president and Chief Justice of the United States and his life as a Progressive Conservative (History)
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