William Howard Taft was born on September 15, 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father, Alphonso, was a well known Republican and also President Ulysses S. Grant's Secretary of War.
He took college courses at Yale University, graduating with a degree in law. After graduation, he returned to Cincinnati in order to set up a law practice. He joined the bar association in 1880 and began working his way up the political ladder from the judicial side. After working as a county judge for several years, he was given a position as a federal circuit judge in 1891.
In 1900, he was appointed by President William McKinley as chairman of an organization formed to create a government in the Philippines. He became the first governor of the Philippines in 1901, serving until 1904, at which point he was named Theodore Roosevelt's Secretary of War.
At the end of his second term, Roosevelt announced that he would not run for a third term and resigned from office. In his place, he promoted Taft to the position of president. In the election of 1908, Taft ran against William Jennings Bryan, winning by a large margin of victory.
Even though Taft was Roosevelt's personal choice for successor, many of Roosevelt's supporters in congress turned against Taft. When he ran for a second term in the 1912 elections, a group of progressive Republicans made their own party, known as the Progressive Party. They selected Theodore Roosevelt as their candidate, but only succeeded in splitting the Republican vote amongst the two candidates, causing a win for Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
After failing his reelection campaign, he became a law professor at Yale University. Taft was later appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1921 and served until 1930. In 1925, he sought passage of the Judges Act, which would give the Supreme Court power to establish precedence for cases on the national scale.
William Taft died in his sleep on March 8, 1930. He is mainly remembered for being the largest president in history, weighing in at 332 lbs at one point.