Robert A. Taft II

From Ohio History Central

Robert (Bob) Alphonso Taft II was Ohio's governor from 1999 to 2007.

Taft was born on January 8, 1942, in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale University with his undergraduate degree in 1963, from Princeton University with a Masters degree in 1967, and from the University of Cincinnati with a law degree in 1976. Upon graduating from Princeton, Taft volunteered several years with the Peace Corps in Africa.

Upon leaving the University of Cincinnati, Taft embarked upon a career in politics. A member of the Republican Party, Taft won election to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1975, serving in the House from 1976 to 1981. In 1980, voters elected Taft as Hamilton County, Ohio, Commissioner, a position that he held from 1981 to 1990, when he won election as Ohio's Secretary of State. As Secretary of State, Taft worked diligently to recruit businesses to come to Ohio.

In 1998, Taft successfully ran for the Ohio's governor's office, winning election with fifty percent of the vote. Taft took office in 1999, and he won reelection in 2002 with fifty-eight percent of the vote. Taft expressed his desire to be known as "the education governor." Unfortunately for Taft and Ohioans, tight economic times made it difficult for the state to allocate more funds to education. Public universities saw a decreasing amount of funds from the state government, causing tuition to increase dramatically. Complicating the situation were tax cuts in the first years of Taft's governorship. Taft also sought to create a "Third Frontier" in Ohio, hoping to make Ohio one of the nation's leaders in computers and computer technology. He also hoped to convert Ohio from a manufacturing state to more of a service state economically.

On August 17, 2005, Taft was charged with four misdemeanors for failing to report gifts, primarily golf outings, to the proper authorities. Taft admitted guilt, pleading no contest. A judge ordered Taft to pay four thousand dollars in fines plus court costs. Taft also had to make restitution to the people who provided him with the gifts. Taft is the only Ohio governor charged with and convicted of a crime while in office. By the end of his second term, Taft had one of the lowest approval ratings of any governor in United States history. Unable to seek reelection in 2006 due to term limits, Taft left office in 2007 and joined the faculty at the University of Dayton.

Taft is the great-grandson of former President William Howard Taft. He also is a distant cousin to former President George Bush and to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

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