Former Senator Howard Baker Dies at 88

Huntsville, TN (2014-06-26) Former U.S. Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr. has passed away at his home in Huntsville.  He was 88.

Senator Howard H. Baker reportedly passed away peacefully at his home in Huntsville shortly before 1:00 p.m. Thursday afternoon.  He reportedly died from lingering complications and health issues associated with a stroke.

Baker was a Senate Majority Leader, Republican U.S. Senator, White House Chief of Staff to the Reagan White House, and a United States Ambassador to Japan. In his later years, he worked as a lobbyist and adviser at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.

Baker began his political career in 1964, when he lost to liberal Democrat Ross Bass in a U.S. Senate election to fill the unexpired term of the late Senator Estes Kefauver.  Two years later, Baker earned the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and defeated former Governor Frank G. Clement to become the first Republican Senator from Tennessee since the late 1800s.  Baker was re-elected in 1972 and again in 1978, serving altogether from January 3, 1967, to January 3, 1985.

In 1973 and 1974, Baker was also the influential ranking minority member of the Senate committee that investigated the Watergate scandal.  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.  Baker was elected Senate Majority Leader in 1981.  He retired from politics in 1984, after opting not to seek re-election to his senate seat.

Baker returned to the political arena to serve as Chief of Staff to President Ronald Reagan (1986-87).  In 2001, President George W. Bush tapped Baker to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan.  In 2004, Baker’s relationship with the Japanese culture was instrumental to the recruitment of Takahata Precision America to ScottCounty.

During his distinguished career, Baker earned the title, “The Great Conciliator”, a testament to his ability to garner support from both parties to resolve key political issues.

“Howard Baker was Tennessee’s favorite son, one of America’s finest leaders and for Honey and me an indispensable friend,” commented Senator Lamar Alexander.  “He built our state’s two-party political system and inspired three generations to try to build a better state and country,” Alexander added.

“I first met him in 1966 when I worked for his election to the U.S. Senate.  Senator Baker was the right man in the right place in so many times when this country needed him,” wrote State Senator Ken Yager.  “One of his greatest abilities was bringing civility to the table in times of crisis,” Yager added.

Baker will lie in state from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, June 30, in the rotunda of the Howard Baker Center, 1640 Cumberland Avenue on the University of Tennessee campus.

His funeral will be held Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at First Presbyterian Church in Huntsville.  Services are tentatively scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.