Feb 22, 2024 - History

Eight facts about Ohio's smartest, biggest president

A mascot of William Howard Taft high-fiving baseball fans.

The William Howard Taft mascot greets baseball fans in D.C. Photo: Chuck Myers/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In honor of Presidents Day — which was Monday, in case you missed it — here are fun facts about the eight Ohioans who became commander-in-chief, courtesy of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

A twist: They all center on Tyler's favorite president, the brawny brainiac William Howard Taft of Cincinnati.

Taft: A member of the Skull and Bones secret society while at Yale.

  • His father, Alphonso, disapproved of this academic distraction, despite having co-founded the group.

William H. Harrison: Buried in North Bend, just 13 miles from where Taft grew up.

Rutherford B. Hayes: Defeated his friend Alphonso at the nominating convention and went on to become Ohio governor.

Ulysses S. Grant: Also knew Alphonso and picked him to serve as secretary of war and attorney general.

Benjamin Harrison: Met the younger Taft at a presidential welcoming party in Cincinnati while deciding who would fill a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy.

  • Taft dreamt of serving as a justice, but Harrison picked someone else.

William McKinley: Got Taft's hopes up with an invite to the White House, but only to ask him to form a civilian government in the Philippines.

James Garfield: Died in 1881. Thirty years later, his relatives were White House guests when Taft and his wife celebrated their silver anniversary.

Warren G. Harding: Chose the 63-year-old former president to be chief justice of the United States.

  • Said Taft: "This is the greatest day of my life."
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