Friday, March 18, 2011

Did You Know? #37

The following answer was given on the popular game show "Jeopardy" a few months ago.
Can you identify the subject of the question? He was, by his own admission, [1] perhaps the most reluctant president in American history. The position he really was interested in was Supreme Court Chief Justice. In fact, when Theodore Roosevelt offered that position to this man, he was eager to accept it. His wife, however, wanted her husband to be President, and she got her way.

William Howard Taft, 27th U. S. President, is perhaps best known as the largest of all the American chief executives, at six feet two inches [2] and weighing in at 330 pounds. Due to his large girth, Taft had real struggles taking a bath, and on more than one occasion he became stuck in the White House bathtub and had be be physically extracted. Finally growing wearied of this humiliation, Taft had a larger tub installed into the White House. It was "seven feet long and nearly four feet wide, and could fit four more-normal-sized men." [3]

Taft was born on September 15, 1857 in Cincinnati, OH into a political family. His father,Alphonso Taft, served President U. S. Grant first as Secretary of War and then as Attorney General. William Howard Taft married Helen "Nellie" Herron and would go on to serve as Theodore Roosevelt's Secretary of War, where he played an important role in the construction of the Panama Canal.

He served only one term as president, 1909-1913. During his term as president two states joined the union, Arizona and New Mexico. [4] Taft also instituted the now traditional "seventh inning stretch." According to tradition, "Taft was attending a baseball game and stood up to stretch his legs during the 7th inning. Since the president stood up, so too did the crowd, creating the 7th inning stretch." [5] When he was nervous, Taft would munch on almonds, his favorite snack. "Taft was known to eat pounds of salted almonds in a sitting." [6]

Although he ran for a second term, his heart was not in it, and his chances were further injured by his friend, Theodore Roosevelt, who ran as a third party candidate. While his supporters may have grieved over his loss to Woodrow Wilson, no doubt Taft was relieved. Now he was free to pursue his real dream, which was realized when Warren G. Harding appointed him as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a position no other American president ever occupied. [7] He held this position from 1921 to 1930. [8]

As was stated in the Jeopardy clue, William Howard Taft's son, Robert Alphonso Taft, and his grandson, Robert Taft, Jr., were both US Senator from Ohio. [9] Also, his great-grandson, Robert Alphonso "Bob" Taft I Governor of Ohio from 1999 to 2007 [10] But politics did not end there. They could have also added that William Howard Taft's grandfather, Peter Rawson Taft I (1785–1867), was a member of the Vermont legislature, his brother, Charles Phelps Taft I (1843–1929), was a U.S. representative (1895–1897). Two other of Taft's sons entered politics, William Howard Taft III was an ambassador to Ireland (1953-1957) [11] and Charles Phelps Taft II was the mayor of Cincinnati. [12] A grandson, William Howard Taft IV, was Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1984 to 1989. [13]

President William Howard Taft died on March 8, 1930 in Washington, D.C., and his body was interred at Arlington National Cemetery (John F. Kennedy is the only other president laid to rest there). [14] As the following chart will illustrate, President Taft and our great-grandfather, Frank Martin Bragg, were 9th cousins (making our father and Pres. Taft 9th cousins 2 times removed).

Edmund Sherman (b.1572) and Joan Makin
Grace Sherman b.1614{siblings}
Esther (or Hester) Sherman b. 1606
Hannah Livermore b.1633{1st cousins}
Esther Ward b. 1623
Grace Cooledge b.1665{2nd cousins}
Daniel Burr b. 1660
Josiah Bond b.1690{3rd cousins}
Elizabeth Burr b. 1696
Anna Bond b.1710{4th cousins}
Nathaniel Hull b. 1726
Susanna Trask b.1730{5th cousins}
Ezekiel Hull b. 1765
Susan Trask Holman{6th cousins}
Platt Hull b. 1787
Susan Holman Waters b.1760{7th cousins}
Ezekiel Hull b. 1813
Louisa Mana Torry b.1800{8th cousins}
Rebecca L. Hull b. 1841
President William Howard Taft b.1857{9th cousins}
Frank Martin Bragg b.1867

Orval Bishop Bragg b.1895

Don C. Bragg b.1920


[1]Rick Beyer, The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told, Collins, New York, 2007, 130-31.
[3] Beyer, 131.
[7] William Howard Taft, Wikipedia;
[8] Concise Biography & Facts About President William Taft;
[9] Robert Taft, Wikipedia;
[10] Bob Taft, Wikipedia;
[11] William Howard Taft III, Wikipedia;
[12] Taft Family, Wikipedia;
[13] William Howard Taft IV, Wikipedia;

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