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President William Howard Taft

Updated on January 6, 2017

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) was the 27th president of the United States (1909-13) and 10th chief justice of the Supreme Court (1921-30).

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, he graduated from Yale University (1878) and Cincinnati Law School (1880). In 1886 he married Helen Herron; they had three children.

A practicing lawyer in Cincinnati, Taft was active in Republican politics from an early age. He served as a state judge and in 1890 Pres. Benjamin Harrison named him solicitor general and later made him a federal judge. He was the first US governor of the Philippines and did much to improve US-Philippine relations.

In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt named Taft secretary of war. He became one of Roosevelt's closest advisers, and he was Roosevelt's handpicked candidate to succeed him. The Republicans nominated Taft in 1908, and he defeated the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan. In some respects Taft continued Roosevelt's Progressive Republican policies.

The antitrust laws continued to be enforced, and, in foreign affairs, Taft continued the activist, adventurous policies of his predecessor. His administration became increasingly more conservative, however, and Taft's relationship with Roosevelt deteriorated. By 1912, Roosevelt was in active opposition and tried to win the Republican nomination away from Taft. After Taft won, Roosevelt ran on his own Progressive, or Bull Moose, ticket. He polled more votes than Taft but the election went to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

Taft taught law after leaving the White House, and in 1921 President Harding named him chief justice of the United States. While chief justice, he greatly streamlined the operations of the federal judiciary.


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