William Howard Taft
He was born on September 15, 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio to Alphonso Taft and Louisa Torrey. A prominent Republican, Taft's father served as secretary of war under President Ulysses S. Grant. Like his father, the younger Taft went to college at Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones, a "secret society" co-founded by his father. After college, he attended Yale Law School. He subsequently began his political career in Ohio shortly after joining the bar in 1880.
In 1900, President William McKinley appointed Taft chair of a commission to organize a civilian government in the Philippines which had been ceded to the United States at the close of the Spanish-American War. From 1901 to 1904 Taft served successfully as the first civilian governor of the Philippines. In 1904 Theodore Roosevelt named Taft as Secretary of War.
Taft was also overweight, to the point that he became stuck in the bathtub in the White House several times, prompting the installation of a new bathtub capable of holding all of the men who installed it.
After serving nearly two full terms, popular Theodore Roosevelt refused to run in the election of 1908. Instead, he promoted Taft as the next Republican president. With Roosevelt's help, Taft handily defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Throughout his presidency, Taft contended with dissent from more liberal members of the Republican party, many of whom continued to follow the lead of former President Roosevelt.
Progressive Republicans openly challenged Taft in the Congressional elections of 1910 and in the Republican presidential primaries of 1912. When Taft won the Republican nomination, the Progressives organized a rival party (the United States Progressive Party, a.k.a. "Bull Moose") and selected Theodore Roosevelt to run against Taft in the general election. Roosevelt's Bull Moose candidacy split the Republican vote and helped elect Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
From 1921 until 1930, Taft served on the Supreme Court as Chief Justice of the United States. In an effort to make the Court work more efficiently, he advocated passage of the 1925 Judges Act enabling the Supreme Court to give precedence to cases of national importance.
A third generation of the Taft family entered the national political stage in 1938. The former president's son, Robert A. Taft I, was elected to the United States Senate. A vociferous critic of the New Deal, Robert Taft was a Republican leader in the Senate from 1939-1953. Two more generations of the Taft family later entered politics. The President's grandson, Robert Taft Jr., served a term as a Senator from Ohio from 1971-1977; the President's great-grandson, Robert A. Taft II, is the current Governor of Ohio. William Howard Taft III was U.S. ambassador to Ireland. William Howard Taft IV is a high official in the United States Department of State.
Supreme Court appointments
Taft appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States: