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Robert A. Taft: A Featured Biography


Robert A. Taft by Rudolf Anton Bernatschke

Senator Robert A. Taft (1889-1953), son of President William Howard Taft, became known as "Mr. Republican" for helping to rebuild his party after the Great Depression and the Democratic dominance of the New Deal years. When the 1946 election gave the Republicans control of the Senate, Taft chose not to serve as majority leader. Instead, he chaired the Republican Policy Committee, where he helped plan his party's legislative agenda. He also chaired the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee and sponsored the Taft-Hartley Labor Act of 1947. When President Harry Truman called Congress into extraordinary session in 1948, Taft blocked all legislative action, inadvertently contributing to Truman's successful reelection. Taft did agree—reluctantly—to become Senate majority leader in January of 1953. Tragically, he died of cancer just seven months later, at the age of 64. In 1959 Congress dedicated the Taft Memorial Bell Tower on the Capitol grounds. That same year, his portrait was added to the Senate Reception Room, part of the Famous Five collection—perhaps the Senate's highest honor.