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Howard Henry Baker, Jr. (born November 15, 1925) is a former Senate Majority Leader, Republican U.S. Senator from Tennesseemarker, White House Chief of Staff, and a former United Statesmarker Ambassador to Japanmarker.

Known in Washington, D.C.marker 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 senator that 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."

Family history

Baker was born in Huntsvillemarker, in Scott Countymarker, Tennessee. He attended The McCallie School in Chattanoogamarker, and after graduating he attended Tulane Universitymarker in New Orleansmarker. During World War II, he trained at a U.S. Navy facility on the campus of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennesseemarker. He served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946 and graduated from the University of Tennesseemarker 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 Universitymarker (Johnson Citymarker), 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 Tennessee.

Political career

The Senate

The younger Baker began his own political career in 1964, when he lost an election to fill the unexpired term of the late Senator Estes Kefauver to the liberal Democrat Ross Bass. In the 1966 Senate election, Bass lost the Democratic primary to former Governor Frank G. Clement. 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. (Newell Sanders, a Republican who represented Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1912 to 1913, had been appointed by Republican Governor Ben W. Hooper when Democrat Robert Love Taylor died in office.)

In 1971, President Richard Nixon asked Baker to fill one of two empty seats on the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker. When Baker took too long to decide whether he wanted the appointment or not, Nixon changed his mind and decided to nominate William Rehnquist instead.

Senator Baker
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 (1977–1981) and two terms as Senate Majority Leader (1981–1985). Baker was also the influential ranking minority member of the Senate committee, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin, 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 campaign manager, 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 Kansasmarker Senator Bob Dole.

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.

Further activities

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 during 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 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.

In 2001, the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy was set up at the University of Tennesseemarker 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.

Baker is currently Senior Counsel to the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. He is also 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. Baker also holds a seat on the board of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems', a non-Profit which provides international election support.


Personal life

Baker has been married to the daughters of two prominent Republicans. Since 1996 he has been married to former U.S. Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum, the daughter of the late Kansasmarker Governor Alfred M. Landon, who was the Republican nominee for President in 1936. 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.

See also


  1. 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.
  2. Dean, John. (2001). Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment that Redefined the Supreme Court, p. 289.
  3. Renchburg's the One! - New York Times
  4. AllPolitics - Candidates - Republicans
  5. Baker Donelson: Howard H. Baker profile
  6. 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.

Further reading

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