Baker memorial service set for 1 p.m. Tuesday; large crowd expected


HUNTSVILLE — Memorial services for Howard H. Baker Jr. will be held Tuesday, beginning at 1 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church here. The former U.S. Senator died Thursday at his home just a short distance from the church where his memorial service will be held. He was 88.

Sanctuary seating at Tuesday's memorial service will be limited to family members, close friends, and distinguished guests. Rev. Martha Anne Fairchild, pastor of First Presbyterian, said in an email to church members Thursday that overflow seating will be provided in the church's fellowship hall. However, it is not expected that there will be enough room for all who want to attend.

Sen. Baker's body will lie in repose at the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy on the campus of the University of Tennessee — 1640 Cumberland Avenue in Knoxville — from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday.

Due to the opportunity for mourners to pay their respects to Sen. Baker and his family in Knoxville on Monday, it remains uncertain exactly how big the funeral crowd in Huntsville will be on Tuesday, or how many notable guests will attend.

Scott County Sheriff Ronnie Phillips said Friday that he had been in contact with Capitol Police and the Secret Service throughout the day in regards to security arrangements. Phillips said that he will have extra deputies on duty Tuesday afternoon to help handle traffic and security.

Phillips could not comment on who might be expected to attend from Washington.

It is expected that several high-ranking members of Congress, as well as former colleagues of Sen. Baker's, will attend the funeral service. However, just who those attendees might be is unclear.

Sen. Baker is survived by his wife, Nancy Kassebaum Baker, son Darek Baker and wife Karen, and daughter Cynthia "Cissy" Baker. He has four grandsons — Daniel, Matthew, Timothy and Samuel. He is also survived by two sisters, Mary Stuart and Beverly Patestides.

Born in Huntsville on Nov. 15, 1925, Sen. Baker was the son of Dora Ann Ladd and Howard Baker Sr. His mother died when Sen. Baker was eight years old; his father remarried Irene Bailey, of Sevierville, Tenn.

The elder Baker was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1951 and served seven terms, representing Scott County and the rest of what was at the time Tennessee's 2nd Congressional District. In 1964, Howard Baker Sr. died. His wife fulfilled the remainder of his term, and later won election to Congress herself.

After attending McCallie School in Chattanooga, Sen. Baker attended both Tulane University and the University of the South. He would later graduate with a law degree from the University of Tennessee. He sometimes said that he chose law because "the line was shorter than the one for the engineering school."

Sen. Baker also enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving on a PT boat in the South Pacific during World War II.

In 1949, Sen. Baker began law practice with his father. Their practice was called Baker & Baker. Today it is Baker Donelson, one of the top 100 law firms in the nation. The rotunda at the University of Tennessee College of Law is named in his honor.

After marrying Joy Dirksen — the daughter of U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois — in 1951, Sen. Baker continued to practice law. He entered the political arena in 1964, narrowly losing his bid for the U.S. Senate. Two years later, he ran again, defeating then-Gov. Frank Clement to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. In so doing, Baker became the first Republican popularly elected to the Senate from Tennessee.

During the course of an 18-year Senate career, Baker served as both the minority and majority leader of the Senate. He was asked by President Richard Nixon to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States, and was also a top candidate for President Gerald Ford's vice president in 1976. He was also the ranking Republican member of a Senate panel that led the investigation into the Watergate scandal, which resulted in the resignation of President Nixon. Upon retiring from the Senate in 1984, Baker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the country.

Baker sought the Republican nomination for president in 1980, a battle that was eventually won by California Gov. Ronald Reagan. Reagan went on to win election to the White House for two terms. In the midst of his second term, he tapped Baker for his White House chief of staff, a post that Baker held for 18 months. In agreeing to Reagan's request to fill the chief of staff role, Baker eliminated the possibility that he would make another run at the presidency in 1988, a choice he was strongly considering.

Baker returned to his law practice after leaving Reagan's White House in 1988.

In 1993, Joy Baker died of cancer. Three years later, Baker married his Senate colleague, U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas. She is the daughter of presidential nominee Alf Landon.

Baker re-entered the public arena in 2001, serving four years as the U.S. ambassador to Japan after being appointed by President George W. Bush.

In the midst of Baker's tenure as ambassador, the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy was established at UT. The center is dedicated to public service and encouraging young people to engage in the political process.

On that political process, Baker would say, "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 was also a photography hobbyist and had a keen interest in history — particularly Scott County history. Irene Baker, the wife of his cousin, James Toomey Baker, served a long tenure as Scott County's historian.

In lieu of flowers, the Baker family has requested that 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.

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