U.S. dignitaries attend funeral for Howard Baker in Huntsville

U.S. dignitaries attend funeral for Howard Baker in Huntsville

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Howard Baker Jr.'s funeral was held at First Presbyterian Church in Huntsville. Howard Baker Jr.'s funeral was held at First Presbyterian Church in Huntsville.
Vice President Joe Biden arrives for the funeral. Vice President Joe Biden arrives for the funeral.
HUNTSVILLE (WATE) - A number of dignitaries attended the funeral for former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, Jr. in Huntsville Tuesday afternoon.

Baker died at his Huntsville home Thursday at the age of 88. He is known for cutting to the core of the 1973 Watergate hearings when he asked of then-President Richard Nixon: "What did the president know and when did he know it?"U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander delivered the eulogy at First Presbyterian Church.

"Almost everything good that's happens happened because of Howard Baker. That's true for me and half the people in the room," said Alexander.

Those in attendance included Vice President Joe Biden, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Gov. Bill Haslam, former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Bob Corker.

"Everybody from Biden to Gore, both Senate leaders and about six or seven senators are all here because they see the unique contributions Senator Baker made, and as Tennesseans I hope everybody's proud that one of our own made that kind of impact on the world," said Gov. Haslam.

The service was short and dignified, filled with music and stories from his longtime friend Lamar Alexander, one if the many Baker helped along the way."He was a very generous man with young people. That was true with me. He encouraged us to do things we might not have thought we could do," said Alexander.

After the funeral service, the flag-draped coffin bearing Baker's body was placed in the earth in the cemetery behind the church, next to his first wife, Joy Dirksen Baker, who died of cancer in 1993.

"The word statesman is overused, but I don't know any one who defines it better than Sen. Baker," said Haslam.

That sentiment is shared by everyone who knew him and will be talked about for years to come.

Huntsville residents remember Sen. Baker

Baker's love of his hometown Huntsville is well known, but it was a love that was reciprocated by his hometown friends.

Cars and people piled into Huntsville to pay their respects. The beloved community member and politician left behind a legacy.

"It makes me proud of this area, to think someone so high in the government still thinks of this as home," said Jan Hancock.

The distinguished statesman began and ended his life in Huntsville, but no matter his successes, community members say he always remembered his hometown and that's what made him standout.  

"That was a unique aspect about Sen. Baker. Despite his prominence, despite his fame on a national and international basis, he always stayed connected to Scott County and he felt a part of him," said Scott County Judge Jamie Cotton.

Residents of Scott County felt the connection too.  

"He didn't put himself above us. He was a true Scott countian," said Sandra Hancock.

Community members say Baker's memory will forever live on in Huntsville.  

"He's a part of our history. I don't know what more you can say than he's our history," said Jan Hancock.

"He was very well loved, and even though he was a great and wonderful senator, a lot of hometown people called him Howard Henry. We had a great deal of love and respect for him," said Phyllis Coffey.

Coffey calls Huntsville a close knit family town. She was close friends with Sen. Baker's late first wife Joy and says the couple always went out of their way to stay connected to the community, no matter where life took the former U.S. Senate majority leader.  

"We're just so proud to be a part of the community that Sen. Baker is from," Coffey said.

"He's going to be truly, truly missed, but Heaven gained an angel," said Sandra Hancock.

6 News Reporter/Anchor GENE PATTERSON and 6 News Reporter SHELBY MILLER contributed to this report.

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