Howard Henry Baker, Jr., was the first popularly elected Republican senator from Tennessee, serving in the U.S. Senate from 1967 to 1985. Born in Huntsville, Tennessee, Baker joined the U.S. Navy during World War II and later practiced law in his home state. For most of his life he was surrounded by politiciansboth his father and his stepmother served in the U.S. House of Representatives. His father-in-law, Everett McKinley Dirksen, was a member of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, where he served as Senate minority leader from 1959 to 1969.
Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1966, Baker quickly rose through the ranks. His calm and witty style gained him public recognition when he served as vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, also known as the Senate Watergate Committee. He is remembered for having pointedly asked, "What did the president know and when did he know it?"  In 1977 Baker was elected Senate minority leader. The following year his persuasive demeanor was instrumental in the passage of the Panama Canal Treaty, which called for the gradual transfer of the canal to Panama.
Baker was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 but lost to Ronald Reagan. He became majority leader in the new Republican-controlled Senate, but he did not seek reelection in 1984. Instead, he returned to Tennessee to practice law. Although Baker considered a second run for the presidency, he put aside those personal ambitions in 1987 to serve the Reagan administration as White House chief of staff. He then returned to private law practice in Tennessee and Washington, D.C. In 1996, after the death of his first wife, Joy Dirksen, he married Nancy Landon Kassebaum, then a senator from Kansas. In 2001 he was appointed U.S. ambassador to Japan. Senator Baker is an avid photographer, and has published two books illustrating his work.
1. Donald C. Bacon, Roger H. Davidson, and Morton Keller, eds., The Encyclopedia of the United States Congress (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 126.