Howard Henry Baker Jr. (November 15, 1925 – June 26, 2014) was an American politician and diplomat who served as a Republican United States Senator from Tennessee, Senate Minority Leader, then Senate Majority Leader. 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 by his Democratic colleagues.
|26th United States Ambassador to Japan|
July 5, 2001 – February 17, 2005
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Tom Foley|
|Succeeded by||Tom Schieffer|
|12th White House Chief of Staff|
February 27, 1987 – July 3, 1988
|Preceded by||Donald Regan|
|Succeeded by||Kenneth Duberstein|
|Senate Majority Leader|
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1985
|Preceded by||Robert Byrd|
|Succeeded by||Bob Dole|
|Senate Minority Leader|
March 5, 1980 – January 3, 1981
|Preceded by||Ted Stevens (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Robert Byrd|
January 3, 1977 – November 1, 1979
|Preceded by||Hugh Scott|
|Succeeded by||Ted Stevens (Acting)|
|United States Senator|
January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1985
|Preceded by||Ross Bass|
|Succeeded by||Al Gore|
Howard Henry Baker Jr.|
November 15, 1925
Huntsville, Tennessee, U.S.
June 26, 2014 (aged 88)|
Huntsville, Tennessee, U.S.
Joy Dirksen (died 1993)|
Nancy Landon (1996–2014)
University of the South (BA)
University of Tennessee, Knoxville (LLB)
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1943–1946|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Baker sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 but dropped out after the first set of primaries. From 1987 to 1988, he served as White House Chief of Staff for President Ronald Reagan. From 2001 to 2005, he was the United States Ambassador to Japan.
His 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. Baker was an alumnus of the Alpha Sigma Chapter of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. 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. The same year, he was admitted to the Tennessee bar and began his law practice.
In the 1966 U.S. Senate election for Tennessee, Bass lost the Democratic primary to former Governor Frank G. Clement, and Baker handily won his Republican primary race over Kenneth Roberts, 112,617 (75.7 percent) to 36,043 (24.2 percent). Baker won the general election, capitalizing on Clement's failure to energize the Democratic base, including specifically organized labor. He won by a somewhat larger-than-expected margin of 55.7 percent to Clement's 44.2 percent. Baker thus became the first Republican senator from Tennessee since 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 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 24–19 by Hugh Scott. At the beginning of the following Congress in 1971, Baker ran again, losing to Scott this time 24–20.
When Hugh Scott retired, Baker was elected senate minority leader in 1977 by his Republican colleagues, defeating Robert Griffin, 19–18. Baker served two terms as Senate Minority Leader (1977–81) and two terms as Senate Majority Leader (1981–85).
President Richard Nixon asked Baker in 1971 to fill one of the two empty seats on the U.S. Supreme Court. When Baker took too long to decide whether he wanted the appointment, Nixon changed his mind and nominated William Rehnquist instead.
In 1973–74, Baker became 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?" The question is sometimes attributed to being given to him by his counsel and former campaign manager, future U.S. Senator Fred Thompson.
John Dean, former counsel to Nixon, revealed to Senate Watergate chief counsel Sam Dash in executive session that Baker had "secret dealings with the White House" during the congressional investigation. Though Baker, as a U.S. Senator, would be a juror in any future impeachment trial, Baker was recorded on February 22, 1973 promising Nixon, "I'm your friend. I'm going to see that your interests are protected." Following this, writes Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, "both the majority Democrats and minority Republicans agreed to share all information." Ultimately, one such document shared by Nixon lawyer Fred Buzhardt inadvertently suggested the presence of Nixon's secret taping system.
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. According to many sources, Baker was a frontrunner for this post, but then he disclosed that his wife, Joy, was a recovered alcoholic. Ford, evidently concluding that one alcoholic spouse in the campaign—his wife, Betty—was sufficient, chose Kansas Senator Bob Dole.
Baker ran for U.S. President in 1980, dropping out of the race for the Republican nomination after losing the Iowa caucuses to George H.W. Bush and the New Hampshire primary to Ronald Reagan, even though a Gallup poll had him in second place in the presidential race, at 18% behind Reagan at 41% as late as November 1979. Baker's support of the 1978 Panama Canal Treaties was overwhelmingly unpopular, especially among Republicans, and it was a factor in Reagan's choosing George H.W. Bush instead of Baker as his running mate. Ted Stevens served as Acting Minority Leader during Baker's primary campaign.
As a testament to Baker's skill as a negotiator, and an 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. In accepting this appointment, Baker chose to skip another bid for the White House in 1988.
In 2003, the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy was set up at the University of Tennessee to honor him. 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, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor assisted in the facility's dedication.
In 2007, Baker joined fellow former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole, Tom Daschle, and George Mitchell to found the Bipartisan Policy Center, a non-profit think tank that works to develop policies suitable for bipartisan support. He was an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy. From 2005 to 2011, Baker was a member of the board of directors of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a nonprofit that provides international election support.
Baker was an accomplished lifelong photographer. His photographs have been exhibited frequently and were published in National Geographic, Life, and in the books Howard Baker's Washington (1982), Big South Fork Country (1993), and Scott's Gulf: The Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness (2000). In 1993 he received the International Award of the American Society of Photographers and in 1994 he was elected into the Hall of Fame of the Photo Marketing Association.
- In 1981, Baker received the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out annually by the Jefferson Awards
- Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1984
- The rotunda at the University of Tennessee College of Law is now named for Baker.
- While he was 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.
- Order of the Paulownia Flowers, 2008 (Japan)
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, running unsuccessfully against Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
- Hunt, Albert R. (July 1, 2014). "Howard Baker, Senate prince showed great statesmanship". The Olympian. Retrieved July 5, 2014.
- "Nancy Kassebaum and Howard Baker". The New York Times. December 8, 1996. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- United States Congress. "Howard Baker (id: B000063)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- "TN U.S. Senate -- R Primary". ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
- "TN US Senate Race - Nov 08, 1966". www.ourcampaigns.com. 22 May 2004. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
- "Howard H. Baker Jr. 1925 ‒ 2014". Baker Donelson. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
- Steve Gerstel (1969-09-24). "Republicans Choose Scott Floor Leader". Times-News. Hendersonville, North Carolina. UPI. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- Walter R. Mears (1971-01-20). "Senate Leader Battles: Kennedy Out, Scott In". Kentucky New Era. Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- "Baker Didn't Think He'd Win". The Ledger. Lakeland, Florida. The New York Times. 1977-01-06. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- Dean, John (2002). Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment that Redefined the Supreme Court. Simon & Schuster. p. 289. ISBN 9780743229791.
- Rosen, Jeffrey (November 4, 2001). "Renchburg's the One!". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- Wilcox, Amanda (1 March 2018). "Carl Bernstein Explores Modern Echoes of Watergate". Old Gold & Black. Wake Forest University. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
...the real heroes of Watergate were Republicans... he told the story of U.S. Sen. Howard Baker who was loyal to the White House at the beginning of the investigation. Baker promised Nixon, “I’m your friend. I’m going to see that your interests are protected.” Later, though, he became famous for asking aloud, “What did the president know and when did he know it?”
- Lowy, Joan (2007-07-07). "Fred Thompson Aided Nixon on Watergate". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
- Woodward, Bob (2015). The Last of the President's Men. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 152–53.
- Camarekian, Barbara (March 27, 1977). "Joy Baker, a Recovered Alcoholic, Rejoins the Washington Scene". The New York Times. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
- "Political Races". CNN. Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- "Cain Surges, Nearly Ties Romney for Lead in GOP Preferences". Gallup. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
- "Senator Howard H. Baker Jr. (1925–2014)". University of Tennessee. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
- "The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky on November 2, 1979 · Page 2".
- "President Reagan will award the presidential Medal of Freedom". UPI. 22 February 1984. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
- Shearer, Lloyd (3 May 1987). "White House Rescue Costing Baker a Bundle". NewspaperArchive.com. Pacific Stars And Stripes. p. 20. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
When the Iran-Contra scandal and the Tower Commission Report were making life miserable for Ronald Reagan, former Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., 61, came to the President's rescue. A loyal but moderate Republican, he agreed to return to government as Reagan's new chief of staff, replacing the controversial Donald Reagan.
- "The Right Man at the Right Time". Time. 1987-03-09. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- "About the Bipartisan Policy Center, Who We Are". Bipartisan Policy.Org. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- "IFES Annual Report 2010" (pdf). www.ifes.org. p. 2. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
- "The Howard Baker Photography Website". Retrieved 2017-03-13.
- "National Winners: public service awards". Jefferson Awards.org. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- "UTK Awards Sen. Howard Baker First Honorary Doctorate". Utk.edu. 2005-05-07. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
- 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.
- Sisk, Chas (June 27, 2014). "Howard Baker, former Senate Majority Leader, dies at 88". The Tennessean. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
- Camia, Catalina (June 26, 2014). "Former Senate GOP leader Howard Baker dies". USA Today. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
- 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.
- United States Congress. "Howard Baker (id: B000063)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Biography from the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee
- Citigroup biography
- Howard H. Baker Papers, University of Tennessee Knoxville Libraries
- Howard Baker on IMDb
- Appearances on C-SPAN