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Thursday, November 4, 2010

PITT-BRADFORD PROFESSOR AUTHORS BOOK ON PRESIDENT TAFT

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PITT-BRADFORD PROFESSOR AUTHORS BOOK ON PRESIDENT TAFT

BRADFORD, Pa. – Dr. Richard Frederick, professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, has written a new biography of President William H. Taft.

The book, “William H. Taft,” is part of Nova Science Publishers’ First Men, America’s Presidents series.

Taft was the 27th President and 10th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Frederick was asked by the publisher to write a book for the series, which is designed for purchase by high school, public and university libraries, although individuals can purchase it also through local and national retailers.

“I had done a lot of research on the Progressive movement of the early 20th Century and on issues of that era,” Frederick said. “I felt really comfortable with the issues of the Taft administration.”

Frederick conducted his research over several summers poring over the Library of Congress’s collection of Taft papers available on microfilm at Penn State University. He also made several trips to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to study original documents and visited Taft’s birthplace in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“I wanted to study this period more in-depth, and I got a whole lot out of it,” he said.

Although Taft was not a glamorous president, Frederick said he was impressed with how competent he was.

“I found out what a thorough administrator he was,” Frederick said. As governor general of the Philippines, Frederick said, Taft built the government of the territory.

“It turns out that’s really impressive,” Frederick said. “He was greatly concerned with the welfare of the people.”

So concerned, Frederick said, that he turned down his dream job of a seat on the Supreme Court to finish his work in the Philippines. He would turn the position down again before finally becoming Chief Justice after serving as President, the only president to do so.

Frederick said he also got to “meet Mrs. Taft through this project.” She definitely had ambitions for her husband to be president, even if he didn’t, Frederick said.

After serving as governor general, President Teddy Roosevelt brought Taft back to the U.S. as secretary of war. Taft was elected to a single term as president in 1908.

“He’s one of three men in the 20th century who was never elected to anything before being elected president,” Frederick said.

At 205 pages, the book is meant to be “readable and interesting, but also scholarly” and suitable for those with a casual interest in history as well as serious scholars.

Known on campus as an entertaining lecturer, Frederick has received the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Pittsburgh and the Teaching Excellence Award from the Pitt-Bradford Alumni Association.

He has taught at Pitt-Bradford for 30 years, specializing in American history, particularly the 20th century.

Frederick is also the author or co-author of books on President Warren G. Harding, Ellis Island and Theoretical Concepts in Biology.

He enjoys jazz music, classic movies, mysteries and college basketball. Frederick and his wife, Jan, are active in the local community and live in Bradford with their SPCA rescue cat, William Howard Taft.

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