spacer William Howard Taftspacer William Howard Taft (1857-1930)
Twenty-seventh President (1909-1913)

William Howard Taft would have much preferred it if his White House predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, had appointed him to the Supreme Court. But Roosevelt had other plans for this man, who had been one of his most trusted advisers. In November 1908, the good-natured Taft found himself elected to the presidency as Roosevelt's hand-picked successor.

In many respects, Taft's administration continued Roosevelt's progressive reforms that sought to monitor the nation's economic life. But many of his old allies questioned the sincerity of his commitment and ultimately regarded him as a betrayer of the Roosevelt legacy. As a result, in Taft's bid for reelection in 1912, he faced a challenge not only from Democratic hopeful Woodrow Wilson but also from the third-party presidential candidacy of the very man who had put him in the White House, Theodore Roosevelt. In the three-way contest, Taft came in a distant third.

Artist William Schevill was a longtime acquaintance of Taft and painted him several times between 1905 and 1910. Friendship did not keep Taft from criticizing the artist, and on one occasion he asked Schevill to rework a portrait. On one point, however, the rotund Taft never interfered. When someone said that he should not tolerate Schevill's making him look so pudgy in his likenesses, he simply answered, "But I am pudgy."

William Valentine Schevill (1864 - 1951)
Oil on artist board, circa 1910
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution;
Gift of William E. Schevill

Enlarged image