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Biographies for Kids >> US Presidents for Kids

Biography

President William Howard Taft

President William Taft
William Howard Taft
Source: US Army Signal Corps
William Taft was the 27th President of the United States.

Served as President: 1909-1913
Vice President: James Schoolcraft Sherman
Party: Republican
Age at inauguration: 51

Born: September 15, 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio
Died: March 8, 1930 in Washington D.C.

Married: Helen Herron Taft
Children: Robert, Helen, Charles
Nickname: Big Bill

Biography:

What is William Taft most known for?

William Taft was selected by President Teddy Roosevelt to be his successor. He is most famous for being the only president to serve on the Supreme Court after leaving office.

William Taft on the Supreme Court
1925 U.S. Supreme Court Justices
Source: US Government

Growing Up

William grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father was a lawyer who served as the Secretary of War and the Attorney General under President Ulysses S. Grant. William enjoyed sports and school. He was especially good at baseball and math. In 1878 he graduated from Yale University and then went to law school to learn to become a lawyer. In 1880 he passed the bar exam and opened his own law practice.

Before He Became President

In addition to his law practice, Taft wanted to enter public service. He worked in a variety of government jobs including the Ohio Superior Court, Solicitor General under President Harrison, and judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals. He hoped that these jobs would prepare him for his dream job, which was to be on the U.S. Supreme Court.

When the United States gained control of the Philippines in the Spanish-American War, President McKinley asked Taft to set up a government there. Taft became governor of the Philippines serving there for four years.

In 1904, Taft joined President Theodore Roosevelt's cabinet as the Secretary of War. While Secretary of War he oversaw the construction of the Panama Canal. Several times Taft was offered a position on the Supreme Court and each time he turned it down because he felt he had to finish his work for the president. When Teddy Roosevelt finished his second term, he recommended Taft for president. Taft wasn't sure he wanted to run, but with his wife's encouragement he ran and won the election.

William Taft's Presidency

Taft had numerous accomplishments while president: Despite all his accomplishments, Taft was not well liked. He also implemented some unpopular policies such as reducing tariffs on imports and his foreign policy known as "Dollar Diplomacy". As a result he lost the next presidential election in a landslide to Woodrow Wilson.

The Supreme Court

After leaving the presidency, Taft did not want to retire. He took a job as a law professor at Yale University. Then in 1921 he finally got his dream job when President Warren G. Harding appointed him to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice. Taft truly enjoyed working on the Supreme Court. He worked almost up until the time of his death.

How did he die?

Taft died of heart disease in 1930. He was buried in Arlington National Seminary. His wife Helen was later buried next to him.
Portrait of William Taft - 27th US President
William Howard Taft
by Anders Zorn


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