Howard Baker, Jr. of Tennessee served 18 years in the Senate, from 1967 to 1985, becoming the Republican floor leader in 1977. He is perhaps best known for his role as vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activitiesthe Watergate Committeewhere he pointedly asked, "What did the President know and when did he know it?" As Republican leader, Baker worked with Democratic leader Robert Byrd to skillfully manage the contentious debate over the Panama Canal treaties in 1978. He retired from the Senate in 1985 to become White House chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan. In 1998, Baker delivered one of the "Leader's Lectures," recalling his years as party leader. When the Senate established a Leadership Portrait Collection in 1999, it was Baker’s portrait by Herbert Abrams that started the collection.
Sam Ervin: A Featured Biography
Senator Sam Ervin
During his 20 years in the Senate, Sam Ervin of North Carolina was considered by his colleagues to be one of the Senate's foremost experts on the Constitution. Well liked by his constituents for his folksy manner, Ervin frequently quoted Shakespeare and the Bible, and often referred to himself as "just an ol' country lawyer,” but Ervin’s colleagues knew that the Harvard-trained statesman was much more. When news of the Watergate scandal broke in 1973, Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield chose Ervin to chair the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, which became known as the Watergate Committee. As television coverage of the hearings enthralled a vast viewing audience, Sam Ervin became a well-known figure who played a pivotal role in events that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Sam Dash, Majority Counsel
Samuel Dash served as chief counsel on the Senate Watergate committee, perhaps the most famous aspect of a legal career that lasted half a century. Appointed in 1973 by committee chairman Sam Ervin, Dash became a well-known figure who advocated for legal ethics and open political discourse. During the hearings Dash questioned witness after witness as the committee investigated the story behind the Watergate burglary and cover-up, revealing evidence that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. After Watergate, Dash helped Chief Justice Warren Burger devise the American Bar Association’s ethical standards for prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Fred Thompson, Minority Counsel
Today, Fred D. Thompson is known as a U.S. senator from Tennessee, as a presidential candidate, and as an actor, most notably for his portrayal of District Attorney Branch on Law and Order. It was with the Senate Watergate committee, however, that Thompson first appeared before a television audience. Thompson earned a law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1967 and then served four years as assistant U.S. attorney. In 1973 Watergate committee vice-chair Howard Baker appointed Thompson to serve as minority counsel. Together, Baker and Thompson pursued the truth of President Richard Nixon’s role in the Watergate burglary and cover-up.
The Directory provides information about former and current senators.