Jacki: William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft: In the Public Service, by David H. Burton

Some presidents have really sucky reputations and I’m not talking ol’ Mr. Impeachment Andrew Johnson. I’m talking… Chester Arthur and his whiskers, William Henry Harrison and his premature death… that kind of thing. Embarrassing stuff that really has little to do with their actual presidency… and then there’s William Howard Taft. How sad is it that all kids know one thing about WHT: he was so fat he got stuck in a bathtub. I mean, that’s it. That’s the fact that is attached to his name. Bummer.

Knowing only that one fact about WHT, I was super bummed when I started searching for a biography of him because they were all over $30. I was annoyed about having to shell out thirty bucks on a no-name, morbidly obese president. So I did some serious internet searching and found this book by David H. Burton for $5. It came in the mail looking so boring I almost fell asleep looking at the cover, but it was a short little thing so I decided to just knock it out and get it over with.

You guys? I kind of loved it.

It isn’t a super intensive, scholarly pursuit by any means (It is less than 200 pages long) but it is well researched, well written and a great overview of a pretty unknown president. I thought that there was a great balance between personal life and political life which is one of the main things that I always look for in a biography. In short, I was really pleased.

A few tidbits, so that you know more than the bathtub stuff:

-Taft & Teddy Roosevelt were buddy-buddy during TR’s administration (I love the visual of these two super intelligent, portly, excitable dudes just getting trashed and laughing these big booming laughs together. You know it happened) and then during Taft’s campaign, but after he was elected, WHT got rid of TR’s cabinet and started making some not-super-TR-approved decisions and Teddy got mad. Like… ditch your friend mad. Like… run against him during the next election mad. This messed them both up by tearing the party and, waa laa! Hello, Woodrow Wilson.

-After his administration, Taft became the first former president to be named Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Before he was president, he was a judge and always aspired to this position, so really President was just a step in his career path. For some reason, this makes me happy.

-For a one term president, he got a lot done, but I can see how these would be things that are lost to history. Lots of domestic cleaning house and yadda. His international impact was pretty huge as far as trading goes, but he was mostly continuing TR’s work in this area.

So that’s that. Another Ohio president, so I was loving all the Ohio references. I think we’re getting towards the end of Ohio’s big president run, but for now I’m just basking in the glory that is the greatest state eva.

I’d way recommend this biography to anyone else doing the challenge, although you may have to do a little bit of extra digging to find it!

 

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