Former U.S. Senator Howard Baker died June 26 at his home in Hunstville, Tenn. He was 88.
Baker was a major force in the Republican party during the 1980s, holding various positions including White House Chief of Staff, and Senate majority and minority leader.
Here’s what you need to know about Baker:
1. He Was Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff
Baker had been a Tennessee senator for 18 years when he decided not to run for re-election in 1984. After being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Ronald Reagan appointed Baker as his Chief of Staff in 1987. Baker held the position for a little over a year, and was believed to be selected for the position after the Senate returned to Democratic control in 1986.
2. He Was Part of the Senate Committee on Watergate
Baker was the leading Republican on the Senate committee that investigated the Watergate scandal during the summer of 1973. During that time, Baker asked one of the most famous questions of the hearings, when he said, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” Baker called Watergate the “greatest disillusionment” of his political career. He became a star political figure as Americans watched the Watergate proceedings unfold on television, and his demeanor and intelligence lead people to call him “presidential material.”
3. He Was Known for His Ability to Create Political Compromise
As a senator, Baker skillfully created compromises between Democrats and Republicans in office, earning him the nickname, “the great conciliator.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said of Baker, “He was someone that could do everything. He was well-liked by Democrats, Republicans. He was a fine man…He enjoyed an illustrious career in public service and it was accomplished by his hard work.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed Reid’s statements, saying, “I know he will be remembered with fondness by members of both political parties.”
Baker was the first Republican to be elected to the Senate from Tennessee since the Reconstruction era after the Civil War.
4. He Served as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan
Baker served as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 2001 to 2005. After stepping down from the position, Baker became an adviser to Citigroup when it came to international issues. In 2007, Baker, along with Bob Dole and former Senators George Mitchell and Tom Daschle, founded the Bipartisan Policy Center a non profit designed to create politically balanced policies.
5. He Served in the Navy During World War II
Baker served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946 after training on the U.S. Navy campus at the University of the South. After leaving the Navy, Baker earned his law degree at the University of Tennessee. He began practicing law in 1949.