Thursday, June 26 2014, 10:26 PM EDT
Former TN Senator Howard Baker Dies
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is reporting that former Tennessee Senator Howard Baker, a major political figure in Washington for decades, has died.
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. But he also acted as President Ronald Reagan's White House Chief of Staff and served as U.S. Ambassador to Japan in his long, illustrious career.
Baker was born in Scott County, Tennessee. He is a graduate of the McCallie School in Chattanooga. 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 East Tennessee as a U.S. Congressman between 1951 and 1964. In 1966, Baker was elected the first Republican Senator from Tennessee since Reconstruction. He was re-elected three times.
In 1971, 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, Nixon changed his mind and nominated William Rehnquist instead.
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.
Baker was once considered a possible running mate for Gerald Ford on the 1976 GOP Presidential ticket. Ford ended up choosing Bob Dole instead.
Tennessee U.S. Senator Bob Corker released this statement upon hearing the news: 'When I think of the ultimate statesman, the very first person who comes to my mind is Howard Baker.
'Howard Baker was one of those people who had the unique ability to bring out the very best in those around him. He always put our country’s interests first, and lived a life of service that everyone in public office should aspire to emulate. I have cherished the privilege of being able to sit down and talk with Howard on many occasions, and I will always value his words of encouragement.
'Elizabeth and I extend our thoughts and prayers to his wife, Nancy, the Baker family and all those who have been touched by Howard’s remarkable life.'
TN GOP Chairman Chris Devaney added, 'His legacy will always be bigger than the Party. He was more than just a legend in Tennessee—he was a titan in American politics. Senator Baker will be missed.'
TN Democratic Party Chairman Roy Harron said, 'Senator Baker was partisan, but he was patriotic. And his patriotism rose above his partisanship. Senator Baker earned the respect of Democrats as well as Republicans. He worked in a bipartisan way with presidents and colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Today, Democrats and Republicans together cry at our great loss, but laugh with happy memories of this great Tennessean.'