Feb 13, 2018

The 27th U.S. president, William Howard Taft

The 27th U.S. president, William Howard Taft, who weighed 355 pounds, supposedly got stuck in the White House bathtub.  It is open to conjecture; but, he did have an extra-large tub installed in the White House that could hold four ordinary men. When John and I were in Cincinnati we visited the house where Taft was born.  It is now a National Park. 

I have to admit we didn’t know very much about Taft but during our tour of his house and the adjacent museum my ambivalence turned to respect for him. Taft was raised to consider civic service as an important part of his life; however, he never wanted to be president his goal was sit on the Supreme Court because as he said, “Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever.”

Even though Taft served the government in many positions
including Secretary of State under President Teddy Roosevelt he did not want to run for the presidency. He was encouraged by his wife and others to run.  He didn’t like campaigning but did travel across the United States making 259 speeches. An observer in Minnesota after listening to one of his speeches commented, “I knew he was good natured but I never dreamed he was so dull.”  In photos of him he usually is smiling and even has twinkle a in his eye. He defeated Democrat
William Jennings Bryan and promised to carry on Teddy Roosevelt’s program of progressive reforms. 
Taft felt big corporations were influencing politics to their own end. Sounds familiar a hundred years later.  Even though there was a falling out between Roosevelt and Taft, Roosevelt said of Taft, “I have always said you would be the greatest president bar Washington and Lincoln…

Theodore Roosevelt is known as the “Trust Buster” but Taft implemented tougher anti-trust legislation. It was the beginning of Dollar Diplomacy, ensuring the financial stability of a region while
protecting and strengthening United States commercial and financial interests there. 

Taft served as chief justice until his death in 1930. He wrote 253 opinions, or about one-sixth of all decisions handed down during his term. Most of his decisions were cautiously conservative. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Taft and John F. Kennedy are the only Presidents buried at Arlington. 

Taft the first President to take up golf. Some western voters thought his golf playing indecent if not immoral. His love for the sport caused a golf boom in the nation, doubling the number of players on public courses. Taft's affection for golf also caused political problems during his presidency, when critics thought he would do well to spend less time on the links and more time at work in the White House. The more things change the more they stay the same. The museum has an animatronic of his son who shares wonderful personal memories of his father. 

Ohio likes to lay claim to having the most presidents (eight) with deep roots in Ohio: William Henry Harrison, Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Warren Harding.  We have visited the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor. We will have to make a point to visit the President Hayes Presidential Center, the Harding Home, Grant’s boyhood home, and McKinley presidential Library and Museum along with the burial sites of the Harrisons. In Canton there is a First Ladies Museum that should be interesting.