By Kaleena Fraga
William Howard Taft is perhaps best known for his girth, and for the story (likely untrue) that he once got stuck in a White House bathtub. Taft was largely overshadowed by his predecessor, Teddy Roosevelt, and it was their grappling over the presidency in 1912 that allowed for Woodrow Wilson to snag the victory (Wilson and Grover Cleveland were the only Democrats since the Civil War to reach the White House).
But for Taft the presidency was only four short years of his life. Upon becoming Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, his true ambition all along, Taft remarked that he hardly even remembered his term in office.
Ten Taft Tales:
- Taft is the only person in American history to serve as both President and Chief Justice.
- As Chief Justice, Taft swore in two other presidents: Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.
- His son, Robert Taft, also ran for president. People referred to him as “Mr. Republican.” Young Robert Taft lost in the primaries to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
- Taft’s people unsuccessfully tried to replicate Teddy Roosevelt’s success in the toy realm by creating “Billy the Possum.” It was a failure.
- Although Taft and Roosevelt’s relationship soured during Taft’s presidency, and during the campaign of 1912, the two later patched things up.
- In 1912, largely due to a divided vote between Taft and Roosevelt, and Roosevelt’s enduring popularity, Taft won only eight electoral votes–the worst showing ever for an incumbent president.
- Taft threw out the very first “First Pitch” in 1910.
- Taft, encouraged toward the presidency by his wife Nellie, more than by his own ambition, was devastated when she suffered a stroke during his presidency. The more social of the two, Nellie’s illness hindered Taft’s ability to rub elbows in Washington.
- Taft was the heaviest president, weighing at one time 354 pounds. After he left the presidency, he purportedly lost 70 pounds.
- Taft, like the current president, enjoyed golf.