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Howard Baker

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Howard Baker

Howard Baker
26th United States Ambassador to Japan
In office
July 5, 2001 – February 17, 2005
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Tom Foley
Succeeded by Tom Schieffer
12th White House Chief of Staff
In office
February 27, 1987 – July 3, 1988
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Donald Regan
Succeeded by Kenneth Duberstein
Senate Majority Leader
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1985
Deputy Ted Stevens
Preceded by Robert Byrd
Succeeded by Bob Dole
Senate Minority Leader
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1981
Deputy Ted Stevens
Preceded by Hugh Scott
Succeeded by Robert Byrd
United States Senator
from Tennessee
In office
January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1985
Preceded by Ross Bass
Succeeded by Al Gore
Personal details
Born Howard Henry Baker, Jr.
(1925-11-15)November 15, 1925
Huntsville, Tennessee, U.S.
Died June 26, 2014(2014-06-26) (aged 88)
Huntsville, Tennessee, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Joy Dirksen (died 1993)
Nancy Kassebaum (1996–2014)
Alma mater Tulane University
University of the South
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Religion Presbyterianism
Military service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1943–1946
Battles/wars World War II

Howard Henry Baker, Jr. (November 15, 1925 – June 26, 2014) was an American politician and diplomat who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from Tennessee and Senate Majority Leader. Baker later served as White House Chief of Staff for President Ronald Reagan, and a United States Ambassador to Japan. He worked as a lobbyist and adviser at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.[1]

Known in Washington, D.C., as the "Great Conciliator", Baker was often regarded as one of the most successful senators in terms of brokering compromises, enacting legislation and maintaining civility. Baker was a moderate conservative who was also respected enormously by most of his Democratic colleagues.[2]


  • Early life 1
    • Background 1.1
  • Political career 2
    • The Senate 2.1
    • Further activities 2.2
    • Honors 2.3
  • Personal life 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Early life


Baker was born in Huntsville, Tennessee, to Dora Ann (née Ladd) and Howard Baker, Sr.[3] Howard Jr.'s father served as a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1951 until 1964, representing a traditionally Republican district in East Tennessee. Baker attended The McCallie School in Chattanooga, and after graduating, he attended Tulane University in New Orleans. During World War II, he trained at a U.S. Navy facility on the campus of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, in the V-12 Navy College Training Program. He served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946 and graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1949. That same year, he was admitted to the Tennessee bar and began his law practice.[4]

The rotunda at the University of Tennessee College of Law is now named for Baker. While delivering a commencement speech during his grandson's graduation at East Tennessee State University (Johnson City) on May 5, 2007, Baker was awarded an honorary doctorate degree.[5] Baker is an alumnus of the Alpha Sigma Chapter of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

Political career

The Senate

Senator Baker in 1984

Baker began his political career in 1964, when he lost to the liberal Democrat Reconstruction, and the first Republican to be popularly elected to the Senate from Tennessee. Harry W. Wellford, then a private attorney but later a U.S. District Court justice and then U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Justice, served as Baker's campaign chair and closest confidant.

Baker was re-elected in 1972 and again in 1978, serving altogether from January 3, 1967, to January 3, 1985. In 1969, he was already a candidate for the Minority Leadership position that opened up with the death of his father-in-law, Everett Dirksen, but Baker was defeated 19–24 by Hugh Scott.[7] At the beginning of the following Congress in 1971, Baker ran again, losing to Scott this time 20–24.[8]

In 1971, President Richard Nixon asked Baker to fill one of two empty seats on the U.S. Supreme Court.[9] When Baker took too long to decide whether he wanted the appointment, Nixon changed his mind and nominated William Rehnquist instead.[10]

In 1973 and 1974, Baker was also the influential ranking minority member of the Senate committee, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin, that investigated the Watergate scandal. Baker is famous for having asked aloud, "What did the President know and when did he know it?", a question sometimes attributed to being given to him by his counsel and former campaign manager, future U.S. Senator Fred Thompson.[11]

When Hugh Scott retired, Baker was elected senate minority leader in 1977 by his Republican colleagues, defeating Robert Griffin 19-18.[12] Baker served two terms as Senate Minority Leader (1977–1981) and two terms as Senate Majority Leader (1981–1985).

Baker was frequently mentioned by insiders as a possible nominee for Vice President of the United States on a ticket headed by incumbent President Gerald Ford in 1976 and, according to many sources, was a front-runner for this post. Ford, however, in a surprising move, chose Kansas Senator Bob Dole.[13]

Baker ran for U.S. President in New Hampshire primary to Ronald Reagan, even though a Gallup poll had him in second place in the presidential race, at eighteen percent behind Reagan at 41 percent, as late as November 1979.[14]

When Baker helped

External links

  • Annis, James. (1995). Howard Baker: Conciliator in an Age of Crises. Lanham, MD: Madison Books. ISBN 1-56833-032-4; ISBN 978-1-56833-032-7.
  • Dean, John Wesley. (2001). Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment that Redefined the Supreme Court. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-2979-7; ISBN 978-0-7432-2979-1.
  • U.S. Congress. Senate. Tributes to the Honorable Howard Baker, Jr., of Tennessee in the United States Senate, Upon the Occasion of His Retirement from the Senate. 98th Cong., 2d sess., 1984. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1984.

Further reading

  1. ^ "Howard Baker profile at". OpenSecrets. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  2. ^ a b c Hunt, Albert R. (1 July 2014). "Howard Baker, Senate prince showed great statesmanship".  
  3. ^ "Nancy Kassebaum and Howard Baker". The New York Times. December 8, 1996. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  4. ^ Howard Baker at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  5. ^ "UTK Awards Sen. Howard Baker First Honorary Doctorate". 2005-05-07. Retrieved 2012-08-30. 
  6. ^ "TN U.S. Senate -- R Primary". Retrieved July 2, 2012. 
  7. ^ Steve Gerstel (1969-09-24). "Republicans Choose Scott Floor Leader".  
  8. ^ Walter R. Mears (1971-01-20). "Senate Leader Battles: Kennedy Out, Scott In".  
  9. ^ Dean, John (2002). Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment that Redefined the Supreme Court.  
  10. ^ Rosen, Jeffrey (November 4, 2001). "Renchburg's the One!". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  11. ^ Lowy, Joan (2007-07-07). "Fred Thompson Aided Nixon on Watergate". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  12. ^ "Baker Didn't Think He'd Win".  
  13. ^ "Political Races". CNN. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Cain Surges, Nearly Ties Romney for Lead in GOP Preferences".  
  15. ^ a b "Senator Howard H. Baker Jr. (1925–2014)". University of Tennessee. Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "The Right Man at the Right Time".  
  17. ^ "About the Bipartisan Policy Center, Who We Are". Bipartisan Policy.Org. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  18. ^ "Howard H. Baker profile". Archived from the original on June 18, 2009. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  19. ^ "Howard H. Baker Jr". Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  20. ^ "National Winners: public service awards". Jefferson Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  21. ^ Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "2008 Spring Conferment of Decorations on Foreign Nationals", p. 4; "51 non-Japanese among 4,000 to receive decorations this spring". The Japan Times. April 30, 2008.
  22. ^ Camia, Catalina (June 26, 2014). "Former Senate GOP leader Howard Baker dies".  
  23. ^ Sisk, Chas (27 June 2014). "Howard Baker, former Senate Majority Leader, dies at 88".  


See also

Baker died on June 26, 2014, at the age of 88 from complications of a stroke he suffered the week prior. He died in his native Huntsville, Tennessee, with his wife, Nancy, by his side.[22][23] Baker was a Presbyterian.

Baker was married to the daughters of two prominent Republicans. Baker's first wife, Joy, who died of cancer, was the daughter of former Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen. In 1996, he married former U.S. Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum, daughter of the late Kansas Governor Alfred M. Landon, who was the Republican nominee for President in 1936.

Howard Baker with Bill Frist, Bob Corker, and Lamar Alexander in 2007

Personal life


In his later years, Baker served as Senior Counsel to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a nonprofit that provides international election support.[19]

In 2007, Baker joined fellow former Senate Majority Leaders Bipartisan Policy Center, a non-profit think tank that works to develop policies suitable for bipartisan support.[17]

In 2003, the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy was set up at the University of Tennessee in honor of the former senator. Vice President Dick Cheney gave a speech at the 2005 ground-breaking ceremony for the center's new building. Upon the building's completion in 2008, Sandra Day O'Connor assisted in the facility's dedication.[15]

Baker did not seek re-election in 1984. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom the same year. However, as a testament to Baker's skill as a negotiator and honest and amiable broker, Reagan tapped him to serve as Chief of Staff during part of Reagan's second term (1987–1988). Many saw this as a move by Reagan to mend relations with the Senate, which had deteriorated somewhat under the previous chief of staff, Donald Regan. (Baker had complained that Regan had become a too-powerful "Prime Minister" inside an increasingly complex imperial presidency.) In accepting this appointment, Baker chose to skip another bid for the White House in 1988.[16]

Further activities


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