William Howard Taft, professor emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, died Feb. 21, 2011, in Columbia, Mo. He was 95.
Taft was born Oct. 24, 1915, in Mexico, Mo., to Raymond and Ferrie Taft. He started working for newspapers in junior high school, starting with the Mexico Ledger, which paid for his college education. A graduate of Mexico High School, Taft received a bachelor's degree in 1937 from Westminster College, where he was its public relations director and covered his own graduation, the speaker for which was FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Taft then earned a bachelor's degree (1938) and master's degree (1939), both in journalism, from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Drafted in June 1941, he served nearly five years in World War II, being commissioned a second lieutenant in the Infantry. Transferred to the Army Air Corps in Orlando, Fla., Taft attended combat intelligence school and served in Rapid City, S.D. By early 1945, he was stationed in Pratt, Kan., as intelligence officer with a B-29 group. Taft's group was headed for the Pacific theater when President Harry Truman ordered the dropping of atomic bombs. In 1951, he received his doctorate from Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University).
Taft taught at Hiram, Youngstown State, and Defiance colleges in Ohio before joining the Memphis State College (now the University of Memphis) faculty in 1950. There, he established the Department of Journalism and worked part-time on the Memphis Commercial-Appeal copydesk. In 1956, Taft moved to the Missouri faculty, where he taught the school's History and Principles of Journalism classes to more than 10,000 students before his retirement in 1981 as associate dean and graduate program director. At Missouri, Taft chaired about one hundred master's theses/projects and about twenty-five doctoral dissertation committees. …