Skip to content

Senate Mourns Passing of Former Majority Leader Howard Baker (Video)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate is mourning the loss of one of the chamber’s great leaders.  

Former Majority Leader Howard Baker Jr., R-Tenn., has died. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the announcement on the floor of the Senate.  

“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of one of the Senate’s most towering figures: Senator Howard Baker. The Senate sends its sincere condolences to the family of Senator Baker,” the Kentucky Republican said. “In particular, we wish to pass along our deep sympathies to his wife, Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker. Many of us served alongside Nancy here in the Senate. We know this must be a most difficult moment for her.”  

Kassenbaum Baker, herself a longtime senator from Kansas, was Baker’s second wife. By his first marriage, Baker was son-in-law of former Leader Everett Dirksen, R-Ill.  

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was a longtime aide to Baker who has spoken frequently on the Senate floor about Baker’s time working with West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd.  

“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,” Alexander said in a statement.  

Alexander’s colleague Bob Corker also offered condolences, citing the counsel Baker provided to him.  

“When I think of the ultimate statesman, the very first person who comes to my mind is Howard Baker,” Corker said in a statement. “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.”  

Baker was the majority leader from 1981 to 1985, having arrived in the Senate in 1967. He would later serve as President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff and the U.S. ambassador to Japan during the George W. Bush administration.