Congressional legacies

The Chafees, the Tafts and the family business

By Laurie Bennett

October 29, 2010 at 5:53am

Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican who endorsed Barack Obama early in the last presidential campaign, is attracting an electic group of supporters in his run as an independent candidate for Rhode Island governor.

He is running a TV ad featuring the president, leveraging the negative reaction to his Democratic rival Frank Caprio’s statement that Obama could “shove it” for not endorsing him.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, also appears in Chafee’s ad.

Chafee lost his re-election bid for the Senate in 2006. If he wins the governor’s post next week, he’ll be resuming a family tradition that goes back almost two centuries.

His father, the late John Chafee, was both a U.S. senator and governor of Rhode Island.

Lincoln Chafee
Lincoln Chafee

His great-great uncle, Henry F. Lippitt, was a U.S. senator and the son of a governor. Lippitt’s wife was the sister of Helen Taft, wife of William Howard Taft, the 27th president and chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Once you wander onto the Taft branches of the family tree, the foliage gets pretty dense. President Taft’s father was attorney general and secretary of war in Ulysses S. Grant’s administration. He also served as U.S. ambassador to Russia.

The president’s brother Charles was a member of Congress, as was his grandson, Robert Taft Jr.

Robert’s Jr.’s son, also named Robert, was governor of Ohio.

The earliest member of the family to take a seat in Congress (as far as we can determine) was Ela Collins, who represented upstate New York from 1823 to 1824.

His son William was also a one-term congressman from New York.

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