Twenty-seventh President of the United States. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. b. 1857 d. 1930.
William Howard Taft was born in Cincinnati in 1857. He graduated from Yale and predictably went into law (is there some strange connection between politics and law that I can't figure out?). He served as United States solicitor general from 1890 until 1892 when he became a federal court circuit judge. From there, he became a faithful follower of Theodore Roosevelt and became the first governor-general of the recently acquisitioned Phillipines in 1902.
In 1904, Taft may have realized that medical science of the time could not diagnose or treat his obvious thyroid problem. Instead of looking further into that, he accepted President Teddy Roosevelt's appointment as Secretary of War. There he continued to make his mark as an obedient follower, effective administrator and legal expert.
In 1908, Roosevelt urged him to run for president. Taft was excited that Roosevelt felt that way about him and followed the leader to the Republican nomination. After easily defeating Democrat William Jennings Bryan, he settled into the White House as if it were a large, overstuffed easy chair.
More of a conservative than Teddy Roosevelt, Taft worked to consolidate and control Roosevelt's reforms rather than expand upon them. He surrounded himself with conventional, conservative lawyers and old guard Republicans, perhaps accepting their advice in exchange for some smoked salmon or a handful of cream puffs.
Taft was concerned with the law and its limits, always asserting that he would not support any measure that did not carry with it "the sanction of law." Still, he occupied a great deal of time with anti-trust proceedings and the passing of a new corporation tax. He supported "dollar diplomacy" in the Caribbean and military intervention in Nicaragua. Amendments for income tax and the direct election of senators were also passed during his administration.
In 1912, Taft's re-election bid was foiled by Teddy Roosevelt's re-entry into presidential politics as candidate for the Bull Moose Party. Roosevelt, who had expected more from his former protege, split the lines of support for the Republicans and helped hand the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
Taft returned to Yale University after his presidency and became a professor of law. He issued support to Woodrow Wilson's neutrality policies before the entry of the United States into World War I. In 1915 he took the role of President of the League to Enforce Peace, a group that directly influenced Woodrow Wilson to alter his plans for the proposed League of Nations.
In 1921, Taft was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He took a hand in modernizing the country's judiciary system and believed in pursuading the minority dissenters in the Supreme Court to refrain from speaking their dissent in order to present an image of total court unity.
There is no truth to the belief that the Republican elephant is meant as a memorial to William Howard Taft. It existed beforehand. He did get stuck in the White House bathtub and had numerous other problems because of his size, which was anywhere from 300 to 350 lbs. He would have made an interesting running mate for James Madison, the smallest president in United States history.
Side note to self about historical coincidence: Taft was born in 1857 in Cincinnati. Salmon P. Chase was governor of Ohio in 1857 with a law practice in Cincinnati. Salmon P. Chase was obsessed with becoming president and later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Taft became president after Chase's death and later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Is history borrowing material from older stories for use in new ones?