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William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) was the only man to serve as both President of the United States and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. While remembered for being the largest chief executive in American history, Taft had a long and varied career in public service.

Taft was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. His family was rich and powerful, and his father had served as both Secretary of War and Attorney General under President Grant. Taft attended Yale University, where he was a member of the secret Skull and Bones Society, which had been co-founded by his father.

By 1887, Taft was a Superior Court judge in Cincinnati, and President Benjamin Harrison appointed him Solicitor General, the youngest ever, in 1890. Ten years later, President McKinley appointed Taft as the Governor-General of the Philippines, which had been taken by the United States in the Spanish-American War.

In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt made Taft his Secretary of War and began grooming him as a political successor. Taft would have rather been Chief Justice than President, but Republicans nominated him in 1908. As a Progressive President, Taft oversaw antitrust lawsuits, created the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and pushed for the 13th Amendment, which instituted federal income tax.

Taft lost his bid for re-election in 1912, but was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, his lifelong ambition, by President Warren G. Harding in 1921.

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