Howard Henry Baker, Jr.
(born November 15, 1925)
is a former Senate Majority
, Republican U.S. Senator from Tennessee, White House
Chief of Staff, and a former United States Ambassador to Japan.
D.C. as the "Great Conciliator," Baker is often regarded
as one of the most successful senators in terms of brokering
compromises, enacting legislation, and maintaining civility.
A story is sometimes told of a reporter telling a senior Democratic
privately, a plurality of his Democratic colleagues would vote for
Baker for President of
the United States
. The senator is reported to have replied,
"You're wrong. He'd win a majority."
born in Huntsville, in Scott County, Tennessee. He attended The McCallie School in Chattanooga, and after graduating he attended Tulane
University in New Orleans.
During World War
, he trained at a U.S. Navy facility on the campus of the University of the South in Sewanee,
Tennessee. 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 commenced his practice. The
rotunda at the University of Tennessee College of Law is now named
for him. While delivering a commencement speech during
his grandson’s graduation at East Tennessee
State University (Johnson City), Baker was awarded an honorary doctorate degree on
May 5, 2007.
Baker is an alumnus of the Alpha Sigma Chapter
of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity
Baker's father, Howard H. Baker, Sr.
, served as a Republican member
of the United
States House of Representatives
from 1951 until 1964. He
represented a traditionally Republican district in east
The younger Baker began his own political career in 1964, when he
lost an election to fill the unexpired term of the late Senator
to the liberal
Democrat Ross Bass
. In the 1966 Senate
election, Bass lost the Democratic primary to former Governor Frank G.
. In the general election,
Baker capitalized on Clement's failure to energize the Democratic
base, specifically Tennessee labor, and won. He thus became the
first elected Republican senator from Tennessee since Reconstruction
, a Republican who
represented Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1912 to 1913, had
by Republican Governor Ben W. Hooper
when Democrat Robert Love Taylor
died in office.)
President Richard Nixon asked Baker to
fill one of two empty seats on the U.S. Supreme Court.
When Baker took too long to decide whether
he wanted the appointment or not, Nixon changed his mind and
decided to nominate William
Baker was re-elected in 1972 and again in 1978, and served from
January 3, 1967, to January 3, 1985. For the last eight of those
years, he led the Senate Republicans, with two terms as Senate Minority Leader
and two terms as Senate Majority
(1981–1985). Baker was also the influential ranking
minority member of the Senate
, chaired by Senator Sam
, that investigated the Watergate scandal
. He is famous for having
asked aloud, "What did the President know and when did he know
it?", a question given him to ask by his counsel and former
, future U.S.
Senator Fred Thompson
Baker was frequently mentioned by insiders as 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, a front-runner for this post. Ford, however, in a
surprising move, chose Kansas Senator
Baker ran for President in 1980
, dropping out of the
race for the GOP nomination after losing the Iowa caucuses
to George H.W. Bush
and the New Hampshire Primary
to Ronald Reagan
. Baker's duties as Senate
Minority Leader prevented him from campaigning heavily in these
important early test races.
He did not seek re-election in 1984, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom
the same year. However, as a testament to his skill as a negotiator
and honest and amiable broker, Reagan tapped him to serve as
Chief of Staff
part of his second term (1987–1988). Many saw this as a move to
mend relations with the Senate, which had deteriorated somewhat
under the previous Chief of Staff, Donald
. (Baker had complained that Regan had become a
" inside an increasingly complex Imperial Presidency
.) In accepting this
appointment, Baker chose to skip another bid for the White House in
In 2001, the Howard H.
Baker, Jr. Center
for Public Policy was set up at the University
of Tennessee in honor of the former senator.
President Dick Cheney
gave a speech at
the 2005 ground-breaking ceremony for the Center's new
Baker is currently Senior Counsel to the law
Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz
. He is also an
Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure
, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating
the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign
policy. Baker also holds a seat on the board of the International
Foundation for Electoral Systems
', a non-Profit which provides
international election support.
Baker has been married to the daughters of two prominent
Republicans. Since 1996 he has been married to former U.S.
Nancy Landon Kassebaum, the
daughter of the late Kansas Governor
Alfred M. Landon
, who was the Republican nominee for
. Baker's late first wife, Joy, who died of cancer
, was the daughter of former Senate Minority
Leader Everett Dirksen
. Howard Baker
is a Presbyterian
- Hooper himself had been elected governor in 1910, the result of
severe division among the Democrats over Prohibition. A large
faction of Democrats (calling themselves "independents") endorsed
Hooper, joined forces with the Republicans, and put him in. Hooper
managed to get reelected in 1912 for a second 2-year term, but by
1914 the Democrats had regrouped and coalesced. During his four
years as governor Hooper felt obliged to hire armed bodyguards,
including when he was around the Democratic legislature.
- Dean, John. (2001). Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon
Appointment that Redefined the Supreme Court, p. 289.
- Renchburg's the One! - New York Times
- AllPolitics - Candidates - Republicans
- Baker Donelson: Howard H. Baker profile
- 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." Japan Times. April 30, 2008.