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Supreme Court Chief Justice William Taft—The President Who Also Sat on the Bench

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William Howard Taft's legacy mostly boils down to two bits of grade-school trivia: He was morbidly obese, and one time he got stuck in a bathtub (though the truthfulness of that story is up for debate). A much cooler accomplishment of Taft's? He was the only president to also serve on the Supreme Court.

Taft began his career in law. After graduating from Yale (where he was a member of the infamous Skull and Bones secret society, which his father founded) and finishing law school at the University of Cincinnati, he opened a private practice after a brief stint as a tax collector—an appointment given to him by President Chester Arthur. Within a few years, he was appointed judge of the Superior Court in Cincinnati, and shortly after that, President Benjamin Harrison made the 32-year-old Taft the youngest-ever Solicitor General of the United States. And toward the end of the 19th century, Taft served as the first dean and professor of constitutional law at his alma mater, UC.

All of Taft's ambitions were in law—not the White House. Taft had been serving as President Theodore Roosevelt's Secretary of War, and though Taft had earlier had to turn down two Supreme Court opportunities because of his duties in the Philippines (during his post as Governor-General, an appointment by President William McKinley), the promise of a Supreme Court seat was still his greatest aspiration. "I have not the slightest ambition to be president," Taft told a friend, adding that the thought of campaigning "is to me a nightmare" and that all of his ambition was "to go on the Bench."

But, as fate and politics would have it, Roosevelt pushed Taft to run for the presidency in 1908. Supreme Court opportunities came and went, and Taft, much to his chagrin, became the Republican frontrunner. He ran out of a sense of duty, won the election, and went on to have a fairly average one-term presidency (though to be fair, Roosevelt was a hard act to follow). While in office, he appointed six justices to the bench, which must have been a difficult task, considering even his wife acknowledged that Taft "never did ... cease to regard a Supreme Court appointment as more desirable than the presidency."

U.S. Supreme Court Justices in 1925; Taft is in the bottom row, middle. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

After he left the White House, Taft bided his time as a professor of constitutional law at Yale and a proponent of international peace-keeping organizations. Then, in June 1921, following the death of the chief justice (whom Taft had appointed 11 years earlier), President Warren Harding had a chance to fulfill Taft's life ambition. The nomination was met with almost unanimous support, and Taft took the oath of office as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in July 1921.

In his new position, Taft became the first and only person to lead two branches of government, and the only former president to swear in subsequent presidents (both Coolidge and Hoover). Taft was so happy with his nine years on the bench—he stepped down the month before his death—that he once noted, "I don't remember that I ever was President."

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Notorious RBG Is Now Available in a Young Readers' Edition
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"Supreme Court Justice" and "pop culture icon" aren’t two titles that necessarily go together, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg's story has never followed a script. As the second female Justice to ever be confirmed to the Supreme Court, Ginsburg has crafted a unique resume as a sharp legal mind and a champion for gender equality on a bench that has historically lacked a woman’s perspective.

In recent years, her story found its way to Tumblr, courtesy of a law student named Shana Knizhnik. Her Notorious RBG tribute page showcased Ginsburg’s career and accomplishments in a light that any young adult could appreciate, no matter how much they knew about current events. It distilled her career down into meme-able chunks, comparing the iconic Justice to rap legend Notorious BIG. This page was eventually turned into a biography published by Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Now, the Notorious RBG is looking to inspire an even younger generation, as HarperCollins has released a Young Readers’ Edition of the biography aimed at kids ages eight to 12. Filled with anecdotes about Ginsburg’s life, illustrations of her accomplishments, a pictorial timeline, and facts about the Supreme Court's history, this version of Notorious RBG “mixes pop culture, humor, and expert analysis for a remarkable account of the indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Heroine. Trailblazer. Pioneer,” according to the publisher.

In addition to her highly publicized triumphs behind the bench, the book also examines her adolescence in the 1930 and ‘40s, when professional opportunities for women were virtually nonexistent in many fields. Written by Shana Knizhnik and Irin Carmon, the Notorious RBG charts Ginsburg’s path from a precocious young student into one of the most influential legal minds of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Young Readers’ Edition of Notorious RBG is available now from HarperCollins. You can also purchase it via Amazon.

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Sam Adams's New $200 Beer Might Be Illegal in Your State
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Sam Adams

If you don’t have a high tolerance, Sam Adams’s latest beer could be more of a conversation piece than anything you want to imbibe. That is, if you can even get ahold of the $200 brew at all. The 2017 release of Utopias, the beer maker's biennial barrel-aged specialty, has a staggering 28 percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV) content—making it illegal in some places in the U.S.

According to Thrillist, Utopias’s unusually high ABV makes it unwelcome in 12 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, both North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington. While a typical beer is between 4 and 7 percent ABV, your average distilled spirit can be 40 percent ABV (also known as 80 proof) or more. So what's the big deal with a 28 percent ABV drink? It turns out, those states have laws limiting the strength of beer, many of them holdovers from the end of Prohibition. Sorry, Alabama beer obsessives.

Assuming you’re legally able to buy a bottle of Utopias, what can you expect? Sam Adams says it has flavors reminiscent of "dark fruit, subtle sweetness, and a deep rich malty smoothness," but the beer won’t be bubbly, according to Fortune, since at that level, the alcohol devours any CO2. You should think of it more as a fine liquor or cognac than a craft beer. And you should pour it accordingly, Sam Adams recommends, in 1-ounce servings.

The 2017 Utopias run will be limited to 13,000 bottles. The brew goes on sale for $200 in early December.

[h/t Thrillist]

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