When the Country's Founding Father is Your Founding Father- page 10 | History | Smithsonian
President William Howard Taft and his sons, Robert, right, and Charles Phelps. (Bettmann / Corbis)

When the Country's Founding Father is Your Founding Father

The descendants of American presidents are the athletic trainers, lawyers, salesmen and executives of everyday life

Rick Taft Pepper Pike, Ohio

Rick Taft
(Robert Muller)

“It is not a simple business to have a famous ancestor,” says Rick Taft. “There is always a ghost in the house, who is saying, ‘You know, I was able to do some pretty dazzling things. What have you done lately?’”

The 66-year-old great-grandson of William Howard Taft, who served as president from 1909 to 1913, says he has never let his family history dictate his path. But, he graduated from Yale University like his great-grandfather. He is a lawyer, as was the president, and civic-minded too. He has served on the city council in Pepper Pike, Ohio, for about 15 years and last November ran, albeit unsuccessfully, for mayor of the affluent suburb of Cleveland.

When people ask about his relation, Taft likes to joke about their difference in weight. William Howard Taft was a big, burly guy. “But you take a person who weighed 350 pounds and you blend the genes for three generations with high-energy women and what you get is a skinny guy,” says Taft.

It is through portraits that Taft feels like he has come to know the president best. He has two in his possession. “He had a wonderful face, a big handlebar moustache, an easy, open appearance. He is beefy and strong-looking, self-confident. His personal aura as captured in portraits is, to me, a wonderful one,” says Taft. “I really like that.”

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