Tough Trivia, 4/20/21

Yesterday’s question was: Only one US President has also served as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Who was it? Similarly, only one US President has also served on the Supreme Court. Who was that?

The answer is:

James Knox Polk

James Knox Polk (1795–1849) represented Tennessee in the House of Representatives from 1825 to 1839, and served as the 13th Speaker from December 7, 1835 to March 3, 1839. He did not seek re-election in 1838, and instead was elected Governor of Tennessee, serving one two-year term (1839–41). He lost the election of 1841.

When the 1844 campaign season opened, Polk hoped to win the Democratic nomination for Vice President under former President Martin Van Buren. Former President Andrew Jackson, however, had a break with his former protégé Van Buren, and supported Polk for the top slot. On the ninth ballot, Polk won the nomination, and in the election, Polk took 49.5% of the popular vote, and 170 of the 275 electoral votes. He was, however, the first president to win the election while losing his state of residence (Tennessee) and his birth state (North Carolina). Polk kept his campaign promise, and served only one term as president. He died in June 1845, a scant three months after leaving office.

William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on September 15, 1857. His father, Alphonso, served as the 31st Secretary of War (March 8–May 22, 1876), the 34th Attorney General (May 22, 1876–March 4, 1877), the US Minister to Austria-Hungary (1882–1884), and the US Minister to Russia (1884–1885). William attended Yale and then practiced law. In 1887, at the age of 29, he was appointed to a judgeship on the Superior Court of Cincinnati, and then later elected to a full five-year term on the court. His professional goal was always a seat on the Supreme Court, and in 1889, Ohio Governor Foraker suggested Taft for the vacancy on the Supreme Court (he was 32). President Benjamin Harrison chose someone else, and in 1890, appointed Taft Solicitor General of the United States. In 1892, he resigned when he was appointed to a newly created judgeship on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1900, President William McKinley asked Taft to resign, in order to head the commission to organize a civilian government in the Philippines, which he did. In July 1901, Taft became the civilian governor of the Philippines. In late 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt offered Taft a seat on the Supreme Court, but Taft refused, saying his work as governor was not yet done. In January 1904, Roosevelt appointed Taft the 42nd Secretary of War. Roosevelt offered Taft Supreme Court appointments in 1905 and 1906, but by this time, Taft had come to terms with the likelihood he would be the next Republican nominee for President (a position both Roosevelt and Taft’s wife Helen had been pushing him toward). Taft did indeed win the nomination, and handily won the election.

During his one term as President, his policies diverged from those of his friend and mentor, Theodore Roosevelt, and when Roosevelt returned to the United States, he challenged Taft for the nomination. Taft was renominated, so Roosevelt formed his own party to run for the presidency, split the Republican vote, and Taft became the only incumbent President to place third in his bid for re-election. After his presidency, Taft returned to Yale as a professor.

Chief Justice Douglass White died on May 19, 1921, and President Warren Harding considered several others to replace him before finally settling on Taft, who had told him months earlier that he wanted the position. On June 30, 1921, Harding officially nominated Taft, and the Senate confirmed his appointment the same day, by a vote of 61–4, without any committee hearings and only a brief debate in executive session. Taft was sworn in on July 11, the only person to serve as both President and Chief Justice. In failing health, he resigned February 3, 1930, and died on March 8.


Today’s question is: Colors in fireworks are usually generated by pyrotechnic stars. Pyrotechnic stars are pellets of which may contain metal powders, salts, or other compounds that, when ignited, burn a certain color or make a certain spark effect. Burning the proper metal can produce any of the colors of the rainbow. Which metals produce which colors?


Ian’s Tough Trivia is a daily feature of this blog. Each day, I post a tough question, as well as the answer to the previous day’s question. At some point, I’ll offer a prize for whoever has the most correct answers, and another for whoever participates most often (I’ll take into account people coming in after the start: regular participation starting later is just as good as regular participation starting earlier). There may also be a prize for the funniest or most amusing wrong answer. Simply comment on this post with your answer. I’ll approve the comments after the next question is posted. Sure, you can probably find the answers by searching the web, but what’s the fun in that?

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