James Baker & George Bush: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

James Baker is eulogizing George H.W. Bush on Thursday, December 5, while the former president lays in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas.

Baker served as the Chief of Staff and Secretary of State to Bush during his presidency. He also worked on several of Bush’s senatorial and presidential campaigns, and beyond that, was known to be Bush’s best friend.

To CBS’ 60 Minutes, Baker credited Bush with turning his life around at the point he needed it most. Here’s what you need to know:


1. Baker Is the Former Secretary of State for the Bush Administration; He & Bush Began Working Together in 1970


JAMES BAKER: THE MAN WHO MADE WASHINGTON WORK | Reagan’s Chief-of-Staff | PBSMany people describe James Baker as the most effective and powerful presidential chief-of-staff in modern history. David Gergen, Lesley Stahl, Hedrick Smith and others explain how Baker used compromise, negotiation and charm to help carry out the “Reagan Revolution.” Film premieres Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 8:30 p.m. ET on PBS. Check your local listings.…2015-03-25T15:00:03.000Z

Baker has had a long political career that included serving as the White House Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Treasury under the Reagan administration, and serving as the Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff to the Bush administration, as well.

Baker and Bush first became friends on the tennis court, according to Baker. To 60 Minutes, Baker explained that they met when Baker was a Texas lawmaker and they each needed a pair for tennis. He said, “Neither one of us had a partner for the doubles matches. And so they put us together. And that’s how we became friends. We first became tennis doubles partners.”

Professionally, their relationship began when Baker worked for Bush’s unsuccessful 1970 Senate campaign. After that, he served in the Reagan administration for several years, helped run Gerald Ford’s 1976 presidential campaign, and ran and failed to win the Attorney General position in Texas.

Baker and Bush were reunited when he ran Bush’s (again unsuccessful) campaign for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination. In 1988, he once again joined Bush to run Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign. This time, they succeeded.


2. Baker Credits the Late President With ‘Turning His Life Around’ at a Point When He Could Have Become an Alcoholic


Sec. James Baker speaks out on George H.W. Bush's healthThe former Secretary of State speaks to "CBS This Morning" co-host Charlie Rose about President George H.W. Bush's hospital stay and their recent visits together2012-12-07T17:28:19.000Z

To CBS’s 60 Minutes, Baker credited the former president with supporting him at a point where he might have become an alcoholic otherwise.

He said, “There were a lotta people who helped me along the way…But the guy who really got me going, got me started, turned me around at — at a time in my life I’ve said if I were ever gonna become an alcoholic, it’s when I lost that wife, and left me with those four small kids. And he was there for me and he’s been there for me ever since.”


3. Baker Was With Bush on His Last Day & Described it as ‘Very Gentle’


Tom Brokaw And Baker: George H.W. Bush ‘Represented The Old Republican Party’ | MTP Daily | MSNBCNBC’s Tom Brokaw and former Secretary of State James Baker join MTP Daily to reflect on George H.W. Bush’s life and legacy. » Subscribe to MSNBC: on.msnbc.com/SubscribeTomsnbc About: MSNBC is the premier destination for in-depth analysis of daily headlines, insightful political commentary and informed perspectives. Reaching more than 95 million households worldwide, MSNBC offers a…2018-12-04T23:57:03.000Z

To CNN, Baker described Bush’s last day as a “very, very gentle and peaceful passing.” He said, “When I showed up at 7 o’clock in the morning, one of the aides who assisted him physically said, ‘Mr. President, Secretary Baker is here,’ he said. “And he opened both eyes, he looked at me, he said. ‘Hey, Bake, where are we going today?’ And I said, ‘Well, jefe,’ I said, ‘We’re going to heaven.’ He said, ‘Good, that’s where I want to go.’ Little did I know or did he know, of course, that by 10 o’clock that night he’d be in heaven.”

In a telephone interview to The New York Times, Baker said of Bush’s passing, “I can’t even hardly talk about it without welling up. It was as gentle a passing as I think you could ever expect anyone to have. And he was ready.”

Baker, who has been described as Bush’s “best friend,” was with Bush on his last day. Reverend Russell Levenson Jr., the longtime family pastor for the Bush family, said on Wednesday during his eulogy, “Secretary Baker was at the foot of the president’s bed and toward the end, Jim Baker rubbed and stroked the president’s feet—for perhaps half an hour.”

Levenson continued, “The president smiled at the comfort of his dear friend. Here I witnessed a world leader who was serving a servant who had been our world’s leader.” Levenson also said at another point that Bush liked to call Baker his “little brother.”


4. Baker Co-Wrote an Op-Ed With Jeb Bush About the Former President Following His Death


Full Baker: President Bush ‘had a wonderful life’ | Meet The Press | NBC NewsFormer Secretary of State, James Baker, joins Meet the Press to remember his friend and confidante, President George H.W. Bush2018-12-02T17:04:55.000Z

For The Washington Post, Baker co-wrote an op-ed with Bush’s son, Jeb, in the wake of Bush’s passing. The post read in part,

“As a friend, George H.W. Bush was without peer, always there in good times and bad. When Jim Baker’s first wife died of cancer at 38, George and Barbara Bush helped pull their friend out of despair. He routinely quoted the verse of William Butler Yeats: ‘Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.’ Those words were more than poetry to him.”


5. Baker Was Called Out in George W. Bush’s Eulogy in a Touching Anecdote About the Two Friends


Former President George W. Bush delivers final eulogy at father's funeralAt the funeral for former President George H.W. Bush, his son George W. Bush delivered the final eulogy. See his full remarks here. Subscribe to the CBS News Channel HERE: youtube.com/cbsnews Watch CBSN live HERE: cbsn.ws/1PlLpZ7 Follow CBS News on Instagram HERE: instagram.com/cbsnews/ Like CBS News on Facebook HERE: facebook.com/cbsnews Follow CBS News on Twitter…2018-12-05T18:03:27.000Z

In George W. Bush’s eulogy of Bush on Wednesday, he noted a particularly touching and humorous occasion in which Baker brought vodka to Bush in the hospital.

Bush said, “In his 90s, he took great delight when his closest pal, James A. Baker, smuggled a bottle of Grey Goose vodka into his hospital room. Apparently,it paired well with the steak he had delivered from Morton’s.”

 

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