As our nation’s Founders designed their plan for a more perfect union, they understood that the success of a modern republic would require more than a political document like the Constitution. From their study of history, the Founders had learned of the pitfalls of republics before this one. They concluded that even the Constitution alone could not curb individual selfishness. They believed that virtues were necessary for sustaining the American experiment. Their fervent prayers were an integral part of the birth of our nation.
This Week in History
July 2, 1964 – President Johnson Signs Civil Rights Act
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in public accommodations, publicly-owned or operated facilities, employment and union membership, and in voter registration.
The landmark piece of legislation, that was signed into law on this date in 1964, ended racial segregation in schools.
Powers given to enforce the act were initially weak, but were supplemented during later years.
The bill was initially called for by President John F. Kennedy in his civil rights speech in June 1963. His proposals were met with opposition in some quarters. The assassination of Kennedy in November 1963 changed the political situation. And Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, made use of his experience in legislative politics, along with the bully pulpit, and in his first address to a joint session of Congress just days after Kennedy’s death, he called for the legislators to pass the civil rights bill as a memorial to President Kennedy.
Presidential Quote of the Week
William Howard Taft (1857-1930), 27th President of the United States
No man can study the movement of modern civilization from an impartial standpoint, and not realize that Christianity and the spread of Christianity are the basis of hope of modern civilization in the growth of popular self-government. The spirit of Christianity is pure democracy. It is equality of man before God – the equality of man before the law, which is, as I understand it, the most God-like manifestation that man has been able to make. – Address at Missionary Conference, November 7, 1912
William Howard Taft was born in September 1857 near Cincinnati, Ohio. His father was a lawyer and prominent politician, and his mother was a college graduate. Taft attended Woodward High School and like most of his family before him, attended Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut. After Yale, he attended Cincinnati Law School, graduating with a Bachelor of Laws. While in law school, he worked for an area newspaper.
After his admission to the Ohio bar, Taft was appointed Assistant Prosecutor of Hamilton County, Ohio. He was later appointed the local Collector of Internal Revenue. Five years later he was appointed a judge of the Ohio Superior Court, during which time he also served as the first dean and a professor of constitutional law of the University of Cincinnati. In 1890 President Benjamin Harrison appointed him Solicitor General of the United States. At the age of 32, he was appointed to the newly created United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and was easily confirmed by the Senate.
In 1900, President William McKinley appointed Taft chairman of a commission to organize a civilian government in the Philippines, which had been ceded to the United States by Spain following the Spanish-American War. He later served as the first civilian Governor General of the Philippines. Three years later, President Theodore Roosevelt offered Taft a seat on the Supreme Court, but he reluctantly declined as he felt the Filipinos were not yet capable of governing themselves.
In 1904, President Roosevelt appointed Taft as Secretary of War, and later the Civil Governor of Cuba. He also helped supervise the beginning of the construction of the Panama Canal.
Taft ran for and easily won the Presidency in 1908. The 16th Constitutional Amendment was passed during his presidency, allowing the Congress to levy an income tax, and the 15th Amendment which prohibits each government in the United States from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s race, color or previous condition of servitude (slavery). He served a single term as president. Even though president for such a short time, he nonetheless appointed six members to the United States Supreme Court. Both New Mexico and Arizona were admitted to the Union during his term.
Following his service as president, Taft became a Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School. In 1921, President William G. Harding nominated Taft to the position of Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He is the only person to have held both the office of President and Chief Justice.
Taft was married to Helen Herron and they had three children. He was the first President to throw out the first pitch on baseball’s opening day. Considerably overweight for most of his adult life, high blood pressure, apnea and other illnesses consistent with obesity led to his demise in 1930. He became the first president to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He listed his faith as Unitarian.