Monday, July 14, 2003

Governor on hand for debut of Taft marker

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Standing just feet from his great-grandfather's childhood home in Mount Auburn, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft unveiled a bicentennial marker Sunday afternoon that has special significance for his family.

The marker honors President William Howard Taft, the governor's great-grandfather, and Robert A. Taft, the governor's grandfather. It's one of six Presidents and Politics markers installed by the Ohio Bicentennial Commission as part of the Ohio Heritage Marker Program.

Sunday's presentation also was part of the opening ceremony of the traveling "State of Eight: A Bicentennial Tribute to Ohio's Presidential Legacy" exhibit.

"In those days, Ohio was the political heartland," Taft said, referring to the eight presidents who came from Ohio between 1840 and 1920. "My own family, of course, was a part of that."

The plaque summarizes the career of the elder Taft, who served as both U.S. president and chief justice of the Supreme Court, on the street side. The story of Robert A. Taft, a U.S. senator from 1939 until his death in 1953, is on the other side. The governor joked that the two-sided plaque had saved money and was an example of "doing more with less" in light of state budget cuts.

The commission's Ohio Heritage Marker program is one of two such programs administered by the Ohio Historical Society. More than 600 markers have been placed around the state since that program began in 1953 - Ohio's sesquicentennial celebration - and hundreds more are planned for the bicentennial celebration.

"(The plaque) gives us a lasting reminder of the history of this state," said Rachel Tooker, deputy executive director of the Ohio Historical Society.

After the unveiling, an actor portraying President Taft spoke to the estimated 50 people in attendance. Bob Taft held the actor's top hat while he spoke.

"It was nice to finally meet him," quipped Taft, who was born 12 years after his great-grandfather died.

The Taft museum is one of three presidential sites to host the "State of Eight" exhibit. It is open through October, and features documents and memorabilia.



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