Remembering Howard Baker

Howard Baker. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)

Howard Baker. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)

The Newseum mourns the loss of Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., a longtime trustee, secretary and counselor for the museum and its parent company the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation that champions the First Amendment as a cornerstone of democracy. Baker was 88.

“Like all who knew him, we are deeply saddened by the passing of Sen. Howard Baker,” said Jim Duff, chief executive officer of the Newseum and president and CEO of the Freedom Forum. “He was loved by people of all political persuasions, faiths, and regions of the country and world. He was a great American. He will be greatly missed.”

Baker joined the Freedom Forum’s board of trustees in 2005 and retired in 2008. He continued to serve as a trustee emeritus and corporate secretary until his death. During his term at the Freedom Forum, Baker helped guide the Newseum in its move from Arlington, Va., to its current location on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

Baker’s political career began in 1964 when he unsuccessfully campaigned to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Estes Kefauver, who died in office. Baker won the Senate election two years later and represented Tennessee for 18 years. He became Senate majority leader in 1981 and was White House chief of staff during President Ronald Reagan’s second term from 1987 to 1988.

During his term in Congress, Baker was known as the “Great Conciliator” for his ability to compromise and build bridges. His stepmother once described him as “like the Tennessee River. He flows right down the middle.”

In 2005, he rejoined Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, the law firm founded in Tennessee by his grandfather in 1888. Duff was a managing partner of the Washington office of the law firm.

Baker is survived by his wife, former Kansas Sen. Nancy L. Kassebaum, two children, four grandchildren and two sisters.

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