title: Theodore Roosevelt: Icon of the American Century

William Howard Taft Supreme Court Justice David J. Brewer used to jest that William Howard Taft was the politest man in Washington, because he was perfectly capable of giving up his seat on a streetcar to three ladies. Taft's amicable disposition it was said that his laugh was one of the "great American institutions" was the foremost quality that won Roosevelt's admiration. "I think he has the most lovable personality I have ever come in contact with," said Roosevelt. As governor general of the Philippines and then as secretary of war, Taft proved to be a troubleshooter in Roosevelt's cabinet. His longtime ambition had been to someday sit with Justice Brewer on the bench of the Supreme Court. Taft would ultimately succeed to the Court, but not before Roosevelt pegged him to be his successor. "Taft will carry on the work substantially as I have carried it on," predicted Roosevelt. "His policies, principles, purposes and ideals are the same as mine." Yet when Taft later proved to be his own person, Roosevelt was distraught. Taft failed to convey the spirit of progressivism to which Roosevelt was ever leaning. "There is no use trying to be William Howard Taft with Roosevelt's ways," he bemoaned, "our ways are different."

William Howard Taft (1857-1930)
William Valentine Schevill (1864-1951)
Oil on artist board, circa 1908-1912
National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Gift of William E. Schevill


Past Exhibitions | National Portrait Gallery Home