Howard Baker Is Born

Howard Henry Baker, Jr. (born November 15, 1925) is a former Senate Majority Leader, Republican U.S. Senator from Tennessee, White House Chief of Staff, and a former United States Ambassador to Japan.

Known in Washington, D.C. as the "Great Conciliator," Baker is often regarded as one of the most successful senators in terms of brokering compromises, enacting legislation, and maintaining civility. A story is sometimes told of a reporter telling a senior Democratic senator that privately, a plurality of his Democratic colleagues would vote for Baker for President of the United States. The senator is reported to have replied, "You're wrong. He'd win a majority."

The younger Baker began his own political career in 1964, when he lost an election to fill the unexpired term of the late Senator Estes Kefauver to the liberal Democrat Ross Bass. In the 1966 Senate election, Bass lost the Democratic primary to former Governor Frank G. Clement. In the general election, Baker capitalized on Clement's failure to energize the Democratic base, specifically Tennessee labor, and won. He thus became the first elected Republican senator from Tennessee since Reconstruction. (Newell Sanders, a Republican who represented Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1912 to 1913, had been appointed by Republican Governor Ben W. Hooper when Democrat Robert Love Taylor died in office.)

In 1971, President Richard Nixon asked Baker to fill one of two empty seats on the U.S. Supreme Court. When Baker took too long to decide whether he wanted the appointment or not, Nixon changed his mind and decided to nominate William Rehnquist instead.