But Baker, the first Tennessee Republican popularly elected to the U.S. Senate, remains a stranger to most university students. His impending trip to speak in the midst of the nation's current political uproar provides an opportune backdrop for a glimpse of Baker's place in history.
"Howard Baker was one of the more important senators of the 1980s," said Tennessee Technological University political science professor Steven Williams. "He was one of the most respected Senate members, and he earned the same type of respect from both parties."
Baker, elected to the United States Senate in 1966 and re-elected in 1972 and 1978, became a household name in 1973 while serving as vice-chairman of the Senate Watergate Subcommittee. The televised hearings of the Senate Select Committee catapulted Baker to the front ranks of his party.
He presented the keynote address at the 1976 Republican National Convention and was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980. He concluded his Senate career by serving two terms as minority leader from 1977-81 and two terms as majority leader from 1981-85.
Answering President Reagan's request to be his Chief of Staff in 1987, Baker was valued for his intelligence and homespun wisdom. Baker's signature advice to Reagan and other officials during the Iran-Contra turmoil was "don't let it fester."
"Baker salvaged the White House by reorganizing it after Iran/Contra affair," Williams said. "Though a partisan leader, he worked with and commanded respect from Democrats; he was almost the opposite of Newt Gingrich who was partisan but could not command that type of bi-partisan respect.
"I think popular opinion is that a man like Howard Baker is what the country needs in Congress today," Williams added.
Now retired from active politics, Baker recently has been sought by journalists and politicians for his insights on President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial. Baker continues to provide analysis for CNN broadcasts throughout the Senate proceedings.Baker will give the Stonecipher Symposium's keynote address Monday, March 22, at 8 p.m. in Derryberry Hall Auditorium. For more information about the symposium, visit the web site at www.tntech.edu/www/acad/sstcc/.