William Howard Taft

She wanted him in the White House and got her wish.

William Howard Taft stumped for the presidency at the Pennsylvania Depot the evening of October 23, 1908 after visiting Cambridge City.

Thousands of residents packed North 10th street and E, jamming the streets, sitting on railroad trucks, billboards, rooftops, windows and “passenger coaches.”

A profusion of “flags, pennants and bunting” stretched across windows and on tops of warehouses along the street and at the Adam H. Bartel Company [now Joe’s Pizza & Maria Mitrione’s Italian Market] directly across.

Taft mounted the platform humbly. “It is a great pleasure for me to come to Richmond. From my earliest boyhood I recollect this place as one of the earliest homes of abolitionism. My father was an abolitionist and regarded Richmond as the most important place in Indiana.”

Taft sought election in wake of President Teddy Roosevelt, and was being groomed in Roosevelt’s “man of brawn” image. At six feet tall and weighing more than 300 pounds, he was the largest person ever to serve as commander-in-chief.

But secretly Taft did not want to be president.

His wife Nellie had visited the White House as a young girl and made it her life’s ambition to live there.

Taft confessed, “I consider obedience the first virtue of a husband.”

In the end his wife’s ambition drove him to the Oval Office, but he wasn’t happy. When he left the presidency in 1913, he told Woodrow Wilson, “I’m glad to be going. This is the lonesomest place in the world.”

When he spoke in Richmond, William Howard Taft never revealed attaining the White House was his wife’s dream, not his.


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June 19, 2012