Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Taft House

On Friday we headed north and left the Bluegrass State behind us.
Kentucky is a beautiful state with many interesting places to visit. Even just driving through the state is a lesson in cultural difference.
For example, I saw several signs advertising "homemade cornhole". What the heck is that??? Turns out that's their way of saying "bean bag toss". Who knew?
We also noticed many fields of tobacco, which is something we aren't used to seeing and which led to some interesting conversations in the car with the older boys.
Further north near Lexington we saw acres and acres of white wooden fences due to the famous horse farms there. It was quite scenic!
But as soon as we crossed the river, we were in Cincinnati, Ohio, where we made a quick stop to see the only memorial in existence dedicated to William H. Taft.
Quick! Tell me everything you know about William Taft. Don't know much? Yeah, I didn't think so. I didn't either. He's not exactly someone that our textbooks spend a lot of time discussing. I suppose that's why I feel like we learned so much in our short stop to the birthplace and childhood home of Taft.
William Howard Taft was born in 1857. He and his siblings were publicly educated in Cincinnati, then he went off to Yale College where he graduated salutatorian (second in his class). He then completed law school and started his career as a lawyer.
He held many public service positions: Judge, Solicitor General of the US, Provisional Governor of Cuba, Governor-General of the Philippines, and Secretary of War.
He was a great friend of Theodore Roosevelt. When Roosevelt declined to run for a third term as president, he handpicked William Taft as his choice in successor. Taft easily won the Republican nomination, and then won the general election against Democrat candidate William Jennings Bryan.
William Howard Taft became the 27th President of the United States in 1909.
However, Taft proved himself to be an independent person and not just Roosevelt's puppet. This eventually put an irreconcilable rift in their friendship. When Taft again won the nomination of the Republican party in the next election cycle, Roosevelt started his own third party called the Progressive Party, or "Bull Moose" Party. However, this caused the conservative vote to be split, making the Democrat candidate, Woodrow Wilson, win the presidency with only 41% of the popular vote.
But that is far from the end of his story!
A few years after his presidency, Taft was nominated and approved to become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, making him the only person in history to serve as both President and Chief Justice! This was his dream come true, as he always yearned to be on the Supreme Court - much more so than to be serving as president. He was our country's 10th Chief Justice.
After several years of serving on the bench, his health started to decline. He resigned his position, and about a month later he died of heart failure. He was 72 years old.
So I'll bet you now know more about Taft than you did a few minutes ago, don't you? There is much more that we learned about him, and we saw lots of great memorabilia at the preservation site. Since the site is operated by the National Park Service, visitation is free. If passing through Cincinnati, it's worth a little detour off the interstate highway.