Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, Jr. dies at 88

Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, Jr. dies at 88

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U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, Jr. U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, Jr.
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, Jr. (R-Tenn.) has died at age 88.

Baker was born in Huntsville, Tenn in 1925.

Baker served the state of Tennessee in the U.S. Senate, where he eventually was elected Majority Leader, from 1967 to 1985. Baker subsequently served as chief of staff to President Reagan and U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Baker's question at the 1973 Senate Watergate hearings - "What did the president know and when did he know it?" - became famous. It instantly focused the nation's attention on the cover-up that - more than the Watergate break-in itself - eventually brought down Nixon's presidency.

Related story: Howard Baker explains the views behind his key role in the Watergate hearings

“Howard Baker was Tennessee’s favorite son, one of America’s finest leaders and for Honey and me an indispensable friend. He built our state’s two-party political system and inspired three generations to try to build a better state and country. It is difficult to express how much we honor his life and how much we will miss him," said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in a news release Thursday.

Alexander served as Baker's first legislative assistant in 1967 and 1968.

“Howard Baker was one of those people who had the unique ability to bring out the very best in those around him. He always put our country’s interests first, and lived a life of service that everyone in public office should aspire to emulate. I have cherished the privilege of being able to sit down and talk with Howard on many occasions, and I will always value his words of encouragement," said Sen. Bob Corker.

“Tennessee has lost a hero and a distinguished statesman, and I have lost a friend and mentor. Howard Baker made Tennesseans proud, and he taught me an important lesson when I worked for him 35 years ago. Anytime he was sitting across the desk from someone in disagreement, he told himself to keep in mind: You know – the other fellow might be right. Whether at home, in business or in politics, that is always good advice to consider," said Gov. Bill Haslam.

President Obama also issued a statement:

"Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Howard Baker. Howard was many things over the course of his career – from Senate Majority Leader, to White House Chief of Staff, to Ambassador. Yet, it was his ability to broker compromise and his unofficial role as the 'Great Conciliator' that won him admirers across party lines, over multiple generations, and beyond the state he called home. Over an 18-year Senate career, Howard fought for the people of Tennessee and helped lead America through difficult times. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Howard’s wife Nancy and the entire Baker family."

Baker will lie in state from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, June 30, in the rotunda of the Howard Baker Center, 1640 Cumberland Avenue on the University of Tennessee campus.

The funeral will be the following day at First Presbyterian Church in Huntsville.
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