It is, perhaps, the dream of every teacher, surveying the pupils on the first weeks of classes in September, to imagine that one of them may grow up to be President of the United States.
That dream came true for Louise D. Horsley, who taught in the Cincinnati Public Schools for 44 years. Among her pupils at the Mount Auburn School was a large boy nicknamed “Lub,” short for “Lubber” in reference to his size and weight. Lub grew up to become better known as William Howard Taft, the only person to serve as both President and Chief Justice of the United States.
Miss Horsley appreciated Lub’s talents even while teaching him in the B and A Intermediate grades (what we today would call Middle School). According to the Cincinnati Post [8 Jun 1908], Miss Horsley said:
“He was remarkable for his aptness at all he undertook, and then, as now, he had almost a woman’s proverbial intuition in grasping a situation and seeing the result.”
Taft retained a deep affection for his early teacher. Miss Horsley attended the 1909 inauguration ceremonies in Washington as his personal guest.
Although having a former pupil grow up to be President is quite a feather, it cannot be denied that there is a certain amount of luck involved. Cincinnati surely had some fine teachers who did not have Lub Taft in class. That being said, Miss Louise D. Horsley had a pretty good record among her pupils. In addition to Taft, she taught federal judge Howard C. Hollister, leading attorney and chairman of the University of Cincinnati Board of Directors Rufus B. Smith, attorney and 16-year veteran of Cincinnati City Council Guy W. Mallon, president of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce John H. Allen, and president of the Hibben Dry Cleaning Company Thomas W. Allen.
Judge Hollister eulogized Miss Horsley in the Cincinnati Post [26 April 1917] on her death at age 73:
“I don’t think she ever gave anybody a spanking. The children all loved her. She was a fine woman. She taught manhood, patriotism and Christian living.”
Louise Dowling Horsley was born in New York and moved with her family to Cincinnati as a young girl. All of her education, including a turn through the old Woodward High School, was completed within Cincinnati. She began teaching in 1864 at the Eighteenth District School (for many years known as Sands Montessori) on Poplar Street in the West End. She transferred after a few years to the Mount Auburn School on Southern Avenue, just around the corner from the Taft homestead. For a time, she served as principal of that school, but declined a permanent appointment so she could return to the classroom.
Although she never married, Louise Horsley basked in the affection of the more than 2,500 pupils she taught over the years. She is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.
This article was reposted with permission from Greg Hand, editor of Cincinnati Curiosities