Document Type



Judicial Management and Judicial Disinterest: The Achievements and Perils of Chief Justice William Howard Taft, 1998 Journal of Supreme Court History 50 (1998)


William Howard Taft holds the significant

distinction of being the only person in the history

of the nation to preside over two branches

of the federal government. He was President

from 1909 to 1913, and he was Chief Justice of

theunited States from 1921 to 1930.

This achievement ought to have secured

Taft a prominent position within the history of

the Court. Yet Taft has drifted into almost complete

professional eclipse. Although familiar

to specialists in legal history, Taft is no more

known to the average lawyer or law student

than are Chief Justices White, Fuller, or Waite.

Taft’s contemporary obscurity is remarkable.

When Taft died on March 8, 1930, the

nation convulsed in an overpowering and spontaneous

wave of mourning. He was widely characterized

as “the most beloved of Americans,”

and hailed by observers like Augustus Hand,

then a federal district Judge in New York, as

“the greatest figure as Chief Justice since John

Marshall.” Even Felix Frankfurter, certainly no

admirer of Taft’s jurisprudence, was moved to

observe that “Few public men have evoked such

spontaneous and warm affection from the public

as has Taft. . . . He is a dear man-a true


Date of Authorship for this Version


Included in

Law Commons