Russell S. Taft

Russell S. Taft

Russell Smith Taft (January 28, 1835 – March 22, 1902) was a lawyer, politician and judge who served as Lieutenant Governor of Vermont and Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court.

Early lifeEdit

Russell Smith Taft was born in Williston, Vermont, on January 28, 1835. He attended schools in Williston and Burlington, studied law with George F. Edmunds and others, and became an attorney in 1856. Among the prospective attorneys who learned the law in Taft's office was Rufus E. Brown, who later served as Vermont Attorney General. Taft was also the first president of the Vermont Life Insurance Company, and later served as its vice president.[1][2][3]

Political careerEdit

A Republican, Taft served as a selectman for the Town of Burlington from 1861 to 1864. After Burlington was incorporated as a city, Taft served as an alderman from 1865 to 1869.[4]

From 1862 to 1865 Taft was Chittenden County State's Attorney, and he was Chittenden County's Register of Probate from 1863 to 1880.[5]

Taft served in the Vermont Senate from 1865 to 1866, and he was Burlington's City Attorney from 1871 to 1872.[6][7]

In 1872 Taft was the successful Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, and he served from October 1872 to October 1874.[8][9] In 1874 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, losing to Asahel Peck.[10]

Taft represented Burlington in the Vermont House of Representatives in 1880.[11][12][13]

Judicial careerEdit

In 1880 the Vermont Assembly elected Taft an associate justice of the Vermont Supreme Court. He served until 1899, when he was appointed chief justice, replacing Jonathan Ross, who had been appointed to the United States Senate.[14][15] He was succeeded as an associate justice by John H. Watson.[16]

Death and burialEdit

Taft served as chief justice until his death, and was succeeded by John W. Rowell. He died in Burlington, Vermont, on March 22, 1902.[17][18][19] He was buried in Williston's Morse Cemetery.[20]


Chief Justice Taft was the recipient of honorary degrees from the University of Vermont, receiving a Master of Arts in 1877, and a Doctor of Laws in 1899.[21]


  1. ^ Biography, Russell S. Taft, The Vermonter magazine, February, 1899, page 112
  2. ^ Legislative Documents and Official Reports, published by Vermont General Assembly, Volume 3, 1876, page 321
  3. ^ The Insurance Year Book for 1879-80, published by The Spectator Company, New York, page 189
  4. ^ Obituary, Russell Smith Taft, The Vermonter magazine, April, 1902, pages 420 to 422
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of Vermont Biography, edited by Prentiss Cutler Dodge, 1912, page 87
  6. ^ William Cornwall and his Descendants, by Edward Everett Cornwall, 1901, page 83
  7. ^ Andrew Warde and His Descendants, 1597-1910, by George K. Ward, 1910, page 371
  8. ^ Vermont: The Green Mountain State, by Walter Hill Crockett, Volume 4, 1921, page 51
  9. ^ General Election Results, Vermont Lieutenant Governor, 1813-2011, Vermont Secretary of State, State Archives and Records Administration, 2011, page 12
  10. ^ Newspaper article, Vermont Politics -- The Coming Republican Convention, Boston Globe, June 12, 1874
  11. ^ Lamb's Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Howard Brown, Volume 7, 1903, page 275
  12. ^ Who's Who in America, published by A. N. Marquis, Volume 1, 1899, page 711
  13. ^ Newspaper article, Republican to the Core: Vermont Gives the Largest Majority Since 1872, New York Times, September 8, 1880
  14. ^ Memorial Paper on Russell Smith Taft, by John W. Rowell, Report of Proceedings of the Vermont Bar Association Annual Meeting, 1903, pages 44 to 56
  15. ^ Justices of the Vermont Supreme Court, 1778 to Present Archived 2012-04-15 at the Wayback Machine, Vermont Secretary of State, State Archives and Records Administration, 2011, pages 5 to 6
  16. ^ Bigelow, Walter J. (1919). Vermont, Its Government. Montpelier, VT: Historical Publishing Company. p. 12.
  17. ^ Russell Smith Taft, LL.D., by Wendell P. Stafford, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, January, 1903, pages 11 to 16
  18. ^ Death of Judge R. S. Taft, published in Kimball Family News, July, 1902, pages 97 to 101
  19. ^ Death Notice, Judge Russell Smith Taft, New York Times, March 23, 1902
  20. ^ Gravestone photos by contributor Barb Destromp, Russell Smith Taft page, Find A Grave web site, November 28, 2006
  21. ^ General Catalogue of the University of Vermont, published by the university, 1901, page 227
Political offices
Preceded by
George N. Dale
Lieutenant Governor of Vermont
Succeeded by
Lyman G. Hinckley