Howard Baker

(b. 1925)

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Howard Baker (1905—1990)


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(b. Huntsville, Tennessee, 15 Nov. 1925)

US; US Senator 1967–85, Senator majority leader 1981–5 Baker came from a family long involved in politics. His father, Howard H. Baker, Sr., served in the US House of Representatives 1951–64, and on his death was succeeded by Baker's mother, Ira Baker, 1964–5. Baker married the daughter of Senator Everett Dirksen. Following service in the Navy in the Second World War, he took a BA at Tulane University in New Orleans and studied law at the University of Tennessee. He practised law in Tennessee and in 1966 was elected to the US Senate.

He won national attention as a prominent member of the Ervin Committee investigating the Watergate affair in 1973. In 1976 President Ford considered him as a vice-presidential candidate. If selected, he might have tipped the balance in Ford's favour in the very close presidential election of 1976 by gaining Tennessee and other states in the upper South which Ford lost to Jimmy Carter. Had he become vice-president in 1976, he would have been a strong candidate to succeed Ford as President in 1980. But instead Ford chose Robert Dole as vice-presidential candidate in 1976 and lost the election, and in 1980 Baker's bid for the Republican nomination for President made little headway against the successful candidate, Ronald Reagan. With the Republican victory in the Senate elections in 1980, he became Senate Majority Leader. He played an important role in arranging compromises which secured the passage of the legislative programme of Reagan's first term. In 1984 Baker decided not to run for re-election. Following the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986 which led to the resignation of White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan, Baker returned to government service as White House Chief of Staff, 1987–8.

Baker was one of the most prominent of the Republican politicians in the South in the post-Civil Rights era. He was a pragmatist who was willing to compromise in order to produce results. As an intelligent moderate, however, he became disenchanted with the new breed of conservative Republicans of the 1970s and 1980s who became increasingly dominant in the Republican Party.

Subjects: Politics.

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