Encyclopedia of American Parties, Campaigns, and Elections

By William C. Binning; Larry E. Esterly et al. | Go to book overview
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TAFT, WILLIAM HOWARD ( 1857-1930). Elected to the presidency of the United States ( 1909-1913), appointed chief justice of the United States Supreme Court ( 1921-1930), Taft is the only individual, to date, to have held these two most powerful positions in American government. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 15, 1857, his father, Alphonso Taft, was one of the city's most prominent lawyers, having served in the Grant cabinet both as secretary of war and as attorney general. Graduated from Yale in 1878, Taft attended Cincinnati Law School before being admitted to the bar in 1880. Establishing his practice in Cincinnati, Taft was to hold a number of local offices before being appointed in 1887, at age 30, judge of the superior court of Ohio; elected to that same judgeship the following year, Taft was to serve on the Superior Court bench until 1890. In the latter year Taft accepted the appointment of President Benjamin Harrison as solicitor-general of the United States, the Justice Department officer who has, among other responsibilities, the lawyer's role of representing the United States in cases before the Supreme Court in which the government is either a party or is appearing amicus curiae, as "friend of the court." Two years later, in 1892, Taft again accepted an appointment from President Harrison, this time to one of the federal judgeships within the Sixth Circuit, a circuit whose jurisdiction embraced the four states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Judge Taft was to remain on the circuit court bench until 1900, when he was asked by President McKinley to go to the Philippine Islands, recently acquired by the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898, to assist in establishing a civil government replacing the Spanish colonial administration. A prerequisite to the functioning of civil government was the termination of the guerrilla warfare which had erupted in 1899 against the American occupation forces, warfare waged by Filipinos who no more savored

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