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William Howard Taft

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Charles William Eliot
William Howard Taft
Adlai Ewing Stevenson, II
Whitney Moore Young, Jr.

WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT (1857-1930)

Wm. Howard Taft was born into a Unitarian family in Cincinnati, Ohio. His parents, Alfonso and Louise changed to the Unitarian Church in the late 1840's. His parents were among those who listened to Lucy Stone and Frederick Douglass, the negro lecturer and writer, both of whom were Abolitionists.

Wm. Howard studied law, graduated from Yale University and Cincinnati Law School, after which he practiced law in Cincinnati. He married Nellie Herron in 1886 in Zanesville, Ohio, and the young couple went to Europe on their honeymoon. After this he led a life of public service and teaching law. He became a judge in the Cincinnati Superior Court, then President Benjamin Harrison chose him as United States Solicitor General.

President McKinley, in looking for a man of high integrity, judicial experience and a sense of humanity, chose Wm. H. Taft to head the commission for civil government in the Philippines. The whole family went to the Philippines to live for the next four years, Wm. Howard, Nellie and the children: Robert 10, Helen 8, and Charlie 2. Soon he became the Governor of the Philippine Islands. In 1904 his friend, Theodore Roosevelt, appointed him as Secretary of War.

Roosevelt chose Taft as his successor, and the Republican Party named him as presidential candidate in the election of 1908. At the same time, he joined the Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C. where Dr. Ulysses G. B. Pierce was the minister. When Taft was censured during his campaign for President, Teddy Roosevelt attended the Unitarian Church with Taft. Roosevelt reminded one of his enraged correspondents that in his Cabinet he had a Catholic, a Protestant Christian and a Jew, each man chosen for his qualifications.

Taft served as 27th President of the United States from 1909 to 1913. After the Presidency, he taught law at Yale University until 1921, when he was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Thus he served. in the two highest positions of our government. He died in March 1930 at the age of 72. A simple funeral was held in All Souls Church (Unitarian) in Washington, D. C.

WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT

Phone Call

President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned Mrs. Martha Ewing and George Harris to photograph the Cabinet in session. Their success led to the photography of the next 12 Presidents.

W. H. Taft, then Secretary of War was being photographed by George Harris when Taft received a phone call. The year was 1908 and these candid photos make history.

The caller was Theodore Roosevelt, the message was that the G.O.P. Convention had just named Taft its Presidential nominee.

President Taft

Taft was President from 1909-1913

William Howard Taft was "jolliest man I've worked with" official photographer Harris recalled decades later.

His Religion

William Howard Taft

Wm. Howard Taft's parents were Unitarians in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was raised as a Unitarian, attended the Unitarian church all his life. Mr. Lawrence Staples writes about Wm. H. Taft's loyalty to the Unitarian church in his book: Washington Unitarianism:

"As Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Theodore Roosevelt and as President, Mr. Taft had attended services in the Church at Fourteenth and L Streets. After his return to Washington in the fall of 1921 as Chief Justice of the United States, he had shared the hospitality of Keith's Theater (temporary church). Always a loyal Unitarian, he was a regular attendant at services, presided at various meetings in the Church, participated in many special occasions. For ten years, he was President of the Unitarian General Conference. He took an active part in the formation of the Unitarian Layman's League; was Honorary Chairman of the Unitarian Campaign in 1920. His last public utterance in All Souls Church, redolent of his ever present good humor, was before the children of the Church School, Sunday April 28, 1929. "

His talk that day was his usual delightfully informal talk, given with good humor; the serious part was this:

"After all, when you come to the end of your life, the only comfort, the only real satisfaction you have is in the good you have done for others. Now you are earnest for yourselves and you must be. You will always have to have a decent respect for yourself. Nevertheless, it is your usefulness to your friends and to the community which is going to count most. Your service does not have to be important; it only has to be what you can render and render conscientiously to help your brother, your sister. You have a great opportunity. . . "

After he died in March 1930 a very simple funeral service was held at All Souls Church. Dr. Ulysses G. B. Pierce conducted the service in which two of his favorite hymns were sung. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, close to the grave of Robert Todd Lincoln. He was the only President to be buried at Arlington until the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963.

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