Howard Baker

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Howard Baker
Howard Baker 1989.jpg
United States Senator
from Tennessee
In office
January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1985
Preceded by Ross Bass
Succeeded by Al Gore
12th White House Chief of Staff
In office
February 27, 1987 – July 1, 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 (whip)
Preceded by Robert Byrd (D)
Succeeded by Bob Dole (R)
Senate Minority Leader
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1981
Deputy Ted Stevens (whip)
Preceded by Hugh Scott (R)
Succeeded by Robert Byrd (D)
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
Personal details
Born Howard Henry Baker, Jr.
(1925-11-15) November 15, 1925 (age 88)
Huntsville, Tennessee
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Joy Dirksen (deceased);

(2) Nancy Landon Kassebaum

Alma mater Tulane University
University of Tennessee
Religion Presbyterian

Howard Henry Baker, Jr. (born November 15, 1925) is a former Senate Majority Leader, Republican U.S. Senator from Tennessee, White House Chief of Staff, and a former United States Ambassador to Japan. He currently works as a lobbyist and adviser at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.[1]

Known in Washington, 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 senator that privately, a plurality of his Democratic colleagues would vote for Baker for President of the United States.

Early life[edit]


Baker was born in Huntsville, in Scott County, Tennessee, the son of Dora Ann (née Ladd) and Howard H. Baker, Sr.[2] 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.

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.[3] Baker is an alumnus of the Alpha Sigma Chapter of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

Political career[edit]

The Senate[edit]

Senator Baker

Baker began his political career in 1964, when he lost to the liberal Democrat Ross Bass in a U.S. Senate election to fill the unexpired term of the late Senator Estes Kefauver. In the 1966 U.S. Senate election for Tennessee, Bass lost the Democratic primary to former Governor Frank G. Clement, while Baker handily won his Republican primary race over Kenneth Roberts, 112,617 (75.7 percent) to 36,043 (24.2 percent).[4] Baker won the general election, capitalizing on Clement's failure to energize the Democratic base, including specifically organized labor. Baker thus became the first elected Republican senator from Tennessee since Reconstruction. Harry W. Wellford, then a private attorney but later 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.[5] At the beginning of the following Congress in 1971, Baker ran again, losing to Scott this time 20-24.[6]

In 1971, President Richard Nixon asked Baker to fill one of two empty seats on the U.S. Supreme Court.[7] When Baker took too long to decide whether he wanted the appointment, Nixon changed his mind and nominated William Rehnquist instead.[8]

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 given him by his counsel and former campaign manager, future U.S. Senator Fred Thompson.

When Hugh Scott retired, Baker was elected senate minority leader in 1977 by his GOP colleagues, defeating Robert Griffin 19-18.[9] 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.[10]

Baker ran for U.S. 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, 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.[11]

Baker's duties as Senate Minority Leader prevented him from campaigning heavily in these important early test races.

Further activities[edit]

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.[12]

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.

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.[13]

Baker is currently Senior Counsel to the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.[14] 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.[15]


Personal life[edit]

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

Baker has been married to the daughters of two prominent Republicans. Baker's late 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, the daughter of the late Kansas Governor Alfred M. Landon, who was the Republican nominee for President in 1936. Howard Baker is a Presbyterian. He is the uncle of M. Blake Morrow, one of the youngest graduates of the University of Tennessee College of Law.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Revolving Door: Howard H Jr Baker Employment Summary". OpenSecrets. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  2. ^ "Nancy Kassebaum and Howard Baker". The New York Times. December 8, 1996. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  3. ^ "UTK Awards Sen. Howard Baker First Honorary Doctorate". 2005-05-07. Retrieved 2012-08-30. 
  4. ^ "TN U.S. Senate -- R Primary". Retrieved July 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Republican Scott Floor". 1969-09-24. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  6. ^ "Senate Leader Ba Kennedy Out". 1971-01-20. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  7. ^ Dean, John. (2001). Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment that Redefined the Supreme Court, p. 289.
  8. ^ Rosen, Jeffrey (November 4, 2001). "Renchburg's the One!". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Baker Didn't Think He'd Win". 1977-01-06. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  10. ^ "Political Races". CNN. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Cain Surges, Nearly Ties Romney for Lead in GOP Preferences". Retrieved Oct 10, 2011. 
  12. ^ "The Right Man at the Right Time". 1987-03-09. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  13. ^ "About the Bipartisan Policy Center, Who We Are". Bipartisan Policy.Org. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  14. ^ Howard H. Baker profile "Baker profile". Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  15. ^ "Howard H. Baker Jr". Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  16. ^ "National Winners | public service awards". Jefferson Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  17. ^ 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.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]