Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr., 88, of Huntsville, passed away June 26, 2014, at home, with family at his side.
Born in Huntsville, November 15, 1925, he was preceded in death by his parents, Dora Ann Ladd and Howard Baker, Sr.; and first wife, Joy Dirksen Baker.
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 as U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
He attended the McCallie School in Chattanooga, 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, he enrolled in the University of Tennessee law school.
In 1949 he was admitted to the bar in Tennessee and began his law practice with his father at Baker and Baker, now known as Baker Donelson. The rotunda at the UT College of Law is named in his honor.
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 and 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 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. Upon leaving the White House he returned to the practice of law, both in Tennessee and Washington.
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.
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.
He is survived by his wife, Nancy Kassebaum Baker; son, Darek Dirksen (Karen) Baker; daughter, Cynthia ìCissyî Baker; grandsons: Daniel, Matthew, Timothy and Samuel; sisters, Mary Stuart and Beverly Patestides; and many other relatives.
Funeral service was conducted July 1, at First Presbyterian Church-Huntsville.
Contributions may be made to: the Baker Center, 1640 Cumberland Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37996, or to the Howard H. Baker Medical Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 600, Hunstville, TN 37756.