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Howard H. Baker Jr. Papers

Identifier: MPA-0101

  • Staff Only

The Howard H. Baker, Jr. Papers contain approximately 326 linear feet of material and cover the period from 1964-1987. The papers are almost entirely from Baker's senatorial career (1967-85) and from his political campaigns; exceptions include some speech files from his first couple of years after leaving the senate and some files belonging to his first wife, Joy Dirksen Baker. Papers created by Baker during his time as President Reagan's chief of staff of the White House (1987-88) are not part of this collection nor are photographs and negatives that Baker took himself (most of the photos in the collection are from the senate photographer).

The materials in the collection document many of the activities, plans, responsibilities, and accomplishments of Baker and his senatorial and campaign staffs. In addition to the typical congressional collection types of files, this collection contains many unique types of records because of the important positions Baker held. It is these less common materials, such as records pertaining to his role as senate minority and majority leader, to his position of vice chairman of the Watergate Committee, to his involvement in key issues of the time such as the Panama Canal and SALT II Treaties, and to his campaign for president that make this congressional collection particularly unique and significant.

The general types of documents found in the collection include: correspondence, reports, memos, schedules, invitations, newspaper clippings, case files, legislation files, public opinion mail, project files, financial records, speeches, manuals, and reference materials. The collection is primarily made up of paper records though it also includes photographs and negatives, film, video and audio recordings, computer disks, microfilm, scrapbooks and books.

Within the entire group of Baker Papers are seven subgroups each made up of numerous series and subseries. The seven subgroups are as follows: legislative; political; administrative; press and public relations; campaign; personal; and non-print materials. An outline of this organization showing the hierarchical arrangement of the subgroups and series follows.

A few of the types of material dominate the collection by their sheer quantity. Almost half of the collection (about 150 linear feet) is composed of campaign files. There are some from each of Baker's three successful senatorial campaigns, but the bulk of the campaign materials are contribution and financial records from his 1980 presidential bid. Watergate related materials account for another large portion of the collection. There are almost 44 linear feet of Public Opinion mail (Administrative Subgroup, Correspondence Files) about the hearings. The correspondence provides a large sampling of the great variety and changing attitudes of the writers over the course of the hearings. The Watergate materials also include about nine cubic feet of materials in the Committee Files (Legislative Subgroup) including newspaper clippings, congressional reports, miscellaneous Watergate documents, and witness files.


  • 1964 - 1987


The material in this collection is in English

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


326 Linear Feet (331 Boxes)


Contains material covering Baker's senatorial career (1967 - 1985) and political campaigns, including his roles as senate minority and majority leader, his service as vice chairman of the Watergate committee, and his involvement in issues such as the Panama Canal and SALT II Treaties. Materials include correspondence, reports, memos, news clippings, case files, public opinion mail, speeches, manuals, photographs, film, video and audio recordings.

Biographical Note

Political Summary: Howard H. Baker, Jr. served three terms as a United States Senator from Tennessee (1967-1985) and was Tennessee's first popularly elected Republican senator. He rose to national prominence during the Watergate Hearings of 1973-74 as vice chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee, the highest ranking Republican on the committee. He served as minority leader of the Senate from 1977-1981 and as majority leader from 1981 until he retired from the senate at the end of his third term in January 1985. He was a candidate for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination and served as President Reagan's chief of staff in 1987-88. He served as United States Ambassador to Japan from 2001 to 2005.

Howard Henry Baker, Jr. was born to Howard Henry Baker and Dora Ladd Baker on November 15, 1925 in Huntsville, Tennessee. His mother died when he was eight years old and his maternal grandmother, Lillie Ladd Mauser, came to help take care of him and his younger sister. When Howard Baker was eleven, his father married Irene Bailey. He attended primary and secondary public school in Huntsville before going to the McCallie School, a military preparatory school in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1941. He graduated from there in 1943 and enlisted in the Navy that summer. Under the Navy's V-12 officer training program he studied electrical engineering at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and then at Tulane University in New Orleans. During the summers and other breaks was assigned naval duties. After leaving the Navy, he attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee where he received his law degree. Upon graduation he returned to Huntsville and joined the law firm started by his grandfather.

In 1950, Baker served as campaign manager for his father's first bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. After the successful election, Baker went to Washington with his father to help set up the office before returning to Huntsville. His sister Mary remained in D.C. and became friends with Joy Dirksen, the daughter of Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois. On December 22, 1951, Howard H. Baker, Jr. married Joy Dirksen (1929-1993). The couple set up house in Huntsville where Baker continued with his law practice and other business ventures. They had two children, Darek Dirksen Baker (born 4/5/53) and Cynthia (Cissy) Baker (born 3/26/56).

Despite coming from and marrying into a political family, Howard Baker, Jr., had no political plans when he first got married. His father, stepmother, and three grandparents had served in political offices but until he ran for U.S. Senate in 1964 his only elected office held was that of student body president during his senior year (1948-49) at UT. As Baker campaigned for U.S. Senate in 1964, his father, Howard Henry Baker, was serving his seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives. When Baker, Sr. died in January 1965, Howard H. Baker, Jr.'s stepmother, Irene Baker, was elected to fill the remainder of her late husband's term.

Although Baker lost his first senatorial bid (in a special election that was held to fill the seat vacant since the death of Senator Estes Kefauver in August 1963) to the more liberal Ross Bass by about 50,000 votes, he did receive more votes than any Republican in Tennessee's history. Two years later, in 1966,he won the election with 56 percent of the vote, thus becoming the first popularly elected Republican senator in the state's history. Revenue sharing was one of Baker's key issues in his first term. He was a pioneer supporter of the idea of sharing federal revenue with states and successfully fought for its authorizing legislation. Another important contribution during his first term was his instrumental role in having Tennessee chosen as the site for the world's first nuclear breeder reactor power plant. As a member of the Environment Committee he worked on drafting the Clean Air Act in 1970 and its revision in 1977. He was among the contenders for the position of minority leader in 1969 and 1971 but was narrowly defeated both times. Although considered conservative on many of his views, he did tend to be more moderate to liberal on social and environmental issues.

Baker was reelected to the senate in 1972, defeating Democrat Ray Blanton by more than 276,000 votes. The Watergate hearings occupied much of his time during the first half of his second term. Baker's campaign literature for the 1972 election touted Baker as a "close friend and trusted advisor of our President, Richard M. Nixon," and when he was named to the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, Baker was in the awkward position of having to investigate possible illegal activities of this friend. Because of this friendship and his party affiliation, Baker knew how crucial it was that he be objective.

It was through the nationally televised hearings that the country came to know Baker. His manner, style, and skill impressed many viewers and left most feeling that Baker was truly working for the best interests of the country. Baker had initially believed Nixon innocent, but as evidence mounted changed his mind. Baker was known for his repeated question "What did the president know and when did he know it?" Many right-wing Republicans thought Baker betrayed his party, the president, and the country by helping to bring about Nixon's resignation.

In 1976, Baker was the keynote speaker at the Republican convention and a hopeful to be Gerald Ford's vice-presidential running mate. He was not chosen, however, partially due to the growing right-wing movement in the Republican Party. He was quite popular among his Senate colleagues and in 1977 was elected Minority Leader. Toward the end of his second term, the Panama Canal Treaties were a hot item politically and had a big impact on his future political career. Baker felt the treaties (submitted by President Carter) with their amendments (that Baker sponsored) would help improve the relationship between the U.S. and Panama and "assure that the Canal remains open and secure." Many conservatives became strong foes of Baker over this issue, claiming that Baker was helping to give away part of the U.S. (even though the U.S. did not own the canal).

Baker ran for his third senate term in 1978, although he had considered leaving the Senate to concentrate more fully on his upcoming 1980 presidential campaign. He won his third term, carrying 56 percent of the vote, but this was a drop from his 62 percent in the 1972 election. This drop can be attributed to numerous reasons, including an independent third candidate in the race, opposition to his vote on the Panama Canal Treaties, and a very rigorous Senate schedule that left little time for campaigning.

Baker withdrew from the 1980 presidential campaign in March of 1980, but continued to support the Republican Party, helping to bring Ronald Reagan to the White House and Republicans to the majority in the Senate. Baker became the Senate Majority Leader and held that position until he retired in 1985. He generally supported the President on most of the key issues; he was successful in unifying Republicans behind the 1981 tax bill, budget cuts, and a higher federal debt limit. Though he began with very little support, Baker was also able to get senate approval for Reagan's plan to sell AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) radar planes to Saudi Arabia. Baker helped push many of Reagan's goals, but in some key areas, such as budget, they did not always see eye to eye. Baker thought there had been enough reductions in social programs and in 1982 pushed the administration to endorse a tax increase to help reduce the deficit. One of Baker's personal goals while Majority Leader was to have the Senate open to television cameras, but that idea was blocked.

Rather than run for a fourth term, Baker chose to return to private life and to his work as an attorney. He continued to be active politically and also spent time giving speeches throughout much of the country. In February, 1987, he was asked by President Ronald Reagan to serve as his White House Chief of Staff. He accepted the position and served until July, 1988. After leaving the senate he worked for several law firms including Vinson and Elkins; Baker, Worthington, Crossley, Stansberry, and Woolf; and Baker, Donelson, Bearman, and Caldwell. In 2001, Baker was appointed United States Ambassador to Japan and served in that capacity until 2005. His first wife, Joy Dirksen Baker, died of cancer in 1993. On December 7, 1996, Baker married Senator Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas.


The collection consists of the following seven subgroups:

Missing Title

  1. Subgroup I: Legislative
  2. Subgroup II: Political
  3. Subgroup III: Administrative
  4. Subgroup IV: Public Relations and Press
  5. Subgroup V: Campaign
  6. Subgroup VI: Personal
  7. Subgroup VII: Non-Print Materials

The collection consists of the following seven subgroups:

Previous Citation

This collection was previously listed as MS.2000.

Acquisition Note

Howard H. Baker, Jr. donated his papers to the University of Tennessee in 1990. The processing of the first shipment of the collection began in November, 1991. An additional group of materials, comprised primarily of campaign records, was added in the fall of 1993 and makes up about one third of this collection. The donation was made with the stipulation that the collection would not be open to the public until 1997. Before coming to the University of Tennessee, portions of the collection were held at various and sometimes multiple sites. Some of it had been stored and weeded by the National Archives before coming to UTK.

Related Archival Materials Note

Related material can be found in the addendum to this collection, MPA.101.001.

Other Finding Aids

A full container list for this collection can be found as a PDF.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA