Thursday, June 26, 2014

Howard Baker 1925-2014

Former Senator Howard Baker, known for posing the question "What did the president know, and when did he know it?" while serving on the committee investigating the Watergate scandal, has died at age 88 at his home in Huntsville, Tennessee.  He was the first Republican popularly elected to the Senate from Tennessee, and became Majority Leader after the Republicans took the Senate in the 1980 election.  After his time in the Senate, Baker became chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan, an envoy to Russia under President George H. W. Bush and Ambassador to Japan under President George W. Bush.

Howard Henry Baker Jr. was born in Huntsville, Tennessee on November 15, 1925.  His mother, Dora, died when he was eight years old.  His father, Howard Baker Sr., served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1951 until his death in 1964, whereupon his widow, the former Irene Bailey, was elected to serve out his term.  Baker became a champion debater in elementary school, graduated from a military academy, studied electrical engineering at the University of the South and Tulane, served as a lieutenant, jr. grade in the U.S. Navy toward the end of World War II, and earned his bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Tennessee.  He was married to Joy Dirksen, daughter of Senator Everett Dirksen (R-Ill), until her death from cancer.  He later married another former Senator, Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan).  Besides Kassebaum, he is survived by his two children, four grandchildren, a sister and a half-sister.

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