Baker, Howard H. Jr. - died Thursday, June 26th, 2014, at his home in Huntsville,Tennessee. He was 88 years old. His family was with him when he died.
Known in Washington, D.C., as the voice of civility, he searched for answers to the critical issues facing the country. His skill as a conciliator served him well over an 18-year career in the United States Senate, as Senate Majority and Minority Leader, as chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan and U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
Howard Baker was born in Huntsville, Tennessee, Scott County the son of Dora Ann Ladd and Howard Baker, Sr. At the age of 8 years old his mother died. His father remarried Irene Bailey of Sevierville, Tn. His father was a Congressman from Scott County, Tennessee from 1951 to 1964. When Howard Baker Sr. died in office, his wife Irene took his seat in Congress and later won election to Congress in her own right.
Baker attended the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn., Tulane University and the University of the South. During World War II, he served on a PT boat in the South Pacific. Upon completion of his military service, Baker enrolled in the University of Tennessee law school, a choice he made, he said, because the line was shorter than the one for the engineering school.
In 1949 he was admitted to the bar in Tennessee and began his law practice with his father. The firm was called Baker and Baker, now known as Baker Donelson, one of the top 100 law firms in the country. The rotunda at the UT College of Law is named in his honor.
In 1951, Baker met the daughter of Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois. He and Joy Dirksen were married that same year. He had 2 children, Darek Dirksen Baker and Cynthia "Cissy" Baker.
As a young man he didn't have political ambitions, but in 1964 he ran for the United States Senate as a Republican. He lost the election, but two years later, ran again, defeating the sitting Governor Frank Clement. Baker became the first Republican popularly elected to the Senate from Tennessee. He served 18 years in the Senate,serving both as Senate minority and majority leader. Upon his retirement from the Senate, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the country.
In a Leadership Lecture to his former Senate colleagues in 1998 - a speech entitled "On Herding Cats" -- Baker said what really makes the Senate work is an understanding of human nature, an appreciation of the hearts as well as the minds, the frailties as well as the strengths, of one's colleagues and one's constituents.
In 1980, he ran for president, but lost to Ronald Reagan. Six years later, he received call from President Reagan, asking him to serve as White House Chief of Staff. His decision removed the potential of a second race for the White House, but he stated, "When the President calls, it is your duty to serve."
Upon leaving the White House he returned to the practice of law, both in Tennessee and Washington.
In 1993, his wife Joy Dirksen Baker died. Three years later Baker married his distinguished Senate colleague, Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum of Kansas, daughter of Presidential nominee Alf Landon.
He re-entered public service in 2001 when he was appointed by President George W. Bush to be the United States ambassador to Japan, a post he held until 2005.President Bush commented he never thought he would be sending two Senators to represent the United States in Japan.
In 2003 the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy was established at the University of Tennessee. The Center is dedicated to maintaining his commitment to public service and encouraging young people to engage in the political process.
Addressing his lifetime role in public service, he stated, "I continue to believe that politics is an honorable profession. I believe that only through the political process can we deal effectively with the full range of the demands and dissents of
the American people."
Baker is survived by his wife, Nancy Kassebaum Baker, son, Darek Dirksen Baker and his wife Karen Baker, and daughter Cynthia "Cissy" Baker. He has four grandsons, Daniel, Matthew, Timothy and Samuel. He has two sisters, Mary Stuart and Beverly Patestides.
Senator Baker will lie in repose at the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, 1640 Cumberland Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37996, on Monday, June 30th from 11:00am - 4:00pm, to which the public is invited.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday, July 1st at 1:00 pm at the First Presbyterian Church in Baker's hometown of Huntsville, Tennessee.
In lieu of flowers the Baker family requests contributions be made to the Baker Center, 1640 Cumberland Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37996, or to the Howard H. Baker Medical Scholarship Fund, PO Box 600, Huntsville, TN. 37756. Arrangements by Rose Mortuary Mann Heritage Chapel.
Online condolences may be made at www.rosemortuary.com.
This obituary is provided as a courtesy of Jones & Son Funeral Home.