In November 1909 U.S. President William Howard Taft set out on a political tour of the South. When he reached Savannah he stayed with Nellie and Willie Gordon in their beautiful Regency home on Bull Street. The Gordon children were all adults then. Daisy and Mabel lived in Europe, but Bill and Arthur were there with their families to meet the president, and Eleanor, wife of U.S. Republican congressman R. Wayne Parker of New Jersey, came down to help her mother. The First Lady, Helen H. Taft, was recovering from a stroke and did not accompany her husband.
The Gordons were staunch Southern Democrats. Taft was a Republican. But Willie Gordon and Will Taft were both Yale men. Willie was instrumental in the creation of the Yale University alumni chapter in Savannah, and would establish a monument at Yale to the students who had lost their lives in the Civil War, both northerners and southerners. After his presidency, Taft would accept a teaching position at Yale’s law school. Their alma mater was close to both their hearts.

President Taft, seated in the car, outside the Gordon home.
Also close to Taft’s heart–it was well known–was food. Nellie Gordon, as hostess, was quite concerned that he eat well while under her roof. The letter she penned to Daisy expressed her unadulterated delight in the presidential appetite.
He arrived at 7:00 p.m. and his visit began as he escorted Nellie in to the dining room. There, Taft ate what he called “a light lunch”[1] of soup and rolls, turkey and ham, a salad and, Nellie noted carefully, “four bottles of ginger ale!!” He declined coffee and wine. [2]
President Taft then had to rush out the door to attend a banquet at Savannah’s elegant DeSoto Hotel. Public-spirited Savannahians made sure their renowned guest was offered every delicacy. Willie and Arthur were on the committee that planned the entertainment for the president, so the two Gordons certainly had a hand in the extensive, Georgia-themed menu:
Daufuskie Oysters on the Shell
Cream of Celery Quenelles
Ogeechee River Trout
Diamond Back Terrapin a la Isle of Hope
Saddle of Ossabaw Venison
Larded Sweetbreads
Yamacraw Yams
Liberty County Quail
Hermitage Rice Birds
Fond Artichokes
Oglethorpe Punch
Old Glory Ice Cream
Georgia Crackers [3]
At 3:00 a.m. President Taft returned to the Gordons’ house and, as Nellie put it, “fell upon the fruit basket of delicious apples I had left in the library, and then regaled himself with them and more ginger ale before he went to bed!”[4] The six-foot-tall, three-hundred pound Taft slept in Daisy’s bedroom. [5]
It was difficult to wake the tired president in the morning, but, when fully roused, he applied himself to Nellie’s breakfast and said he “did not mean to be hurried.” Accordingly, he ate “grapefruit…fresh shrimp, hominy and butter…a potted partridge, then broiled venison, then a grilled partridge then more venison, finally two waffles with maple syrup and two cups of coffee, also two hot rolls.” President Taft announced to his hostess that he was “really most appreciative.”[6]
Nellie told Daisy puckishly that she could see for herself, from the president’s profile in photos taken just after that morning’s breakfast, that he had enjoyed it. How proud she would have been had she known that President Taft had written his wife, “the Gordons live beautifully in Savannah….”[7] For Nellie, the entire visit was a resounding success. 

[1] William Howard Taft to Helen H. Taft, 5 November 1909, Taft Presidential Papers on microfilm, Ser. 2, Reel 26.
[2] Nellie Kinzie Gordon to Juliette Gordon Low, undated [November 1909], Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, Girl Scout National Center, Savannah, Georgia. 
[3] Gordon Family Papers, MS318/5, Georgia Historical Society.  
[4] Nellie Kinzie Gordon to Juliette Gordon Low, undated [November 1909], Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, Girl Scout National Center.
[5] For Taft’s physical size: Lewis L. Gould, The William Howard Taft Presidency (Lawrence:  University Press of Kansas, 2009), 35.
[6] Nellie Kinzie Gordon to Juliette Gordon Low, undated [November 1909], Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, Girl Scout National Center.
[7]] William Howard Taft to Helen H. Taft, 5 November 1909.
Photo credits: 
Photo of Taft’s arrival with the kind permission of the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace.
Photo of Taft standing from the Library of Congress.