William Howard Taft

— 27th President of the United States —

View full portraits at:
National Portrait Gallery or the White House Presidential Portrait Gallery


March 4, 1909 to March 3, 1913

BORN: September 15, 1857
Cincinnati, Ohio
March 8, 1930, Washington, D.C.
Buried in Arlington, Virginia
Helen Herron, 1886
Helen, Robert, Charles

Opinions may vary about Taft's effectiveness as president, but one fact is indisputable. He is the largest man ever to be president of the United States.

At 6 feet, 2 inches tall, Taft's weight fluctuated between 300 and 332 pounds. At one point while president, Taft grew so large that he became stuck in the White House bathtub and had to have a larger tub brought in for his use. Despite his weight, Taft was in generally good health and managed to "shrink" back to 244 pounds in 1929.

Taft was Teddy Roosevelt's vice president and Roosevelt's hand-picked choice to assume the presidency upon his retirement. Taft adhered to Roosevelt's policies but had few close confidants on whom he could lean in the White House. In fact, shortly before her death in 1908, Taft's own mother endorsed Elihu Root, Taft's opponent in the election.

Taft grew up in Cincinnati and was an avid baseball player and a good dancer despite his size. He also frequently served as a referee in fights between his brothers.

It was during Taft's administration that the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which gives the federal government the right to collect income tax, was ratified.

Following his defeat in the 1912 presidential election, Taft became professor of law at Yale University until 1921, when he was named chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. He is the only man to serve both as president and chief justice.

Taft died at his home in Washington on March 8, 1930.

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