Mourners on Monday paid their respects to former Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. at the University of Tennessee center in that bears his name.
People began lining up outside the Baker Center for Public Policy in Knoxville well before the doors opened to view the flag-draped casket of the onetime Senate majority leader.
Baker cut to the core of the 1973 Watergate hearings when he asked, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” He died Thursday, June 26, at age 88.
In his 18 years in the Senate, Baker won widespread respect from Republicans and Democrats. He once ran for president and later was President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff.
Among the attendees on Monday was former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist. He said he and U.S. Reps. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky., and John Duncan Jr., R-Tennessee, recently drove to visit his former colleague and friend in his hometown of Huntsville near the Kentucky state line.
“We didn’t know how long we’d be able to stay, but we started telling war stories, and we stayed over an hour,” Sundquist said.
Sundquist praised Baker’s wife, former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, for making “his life so comfortable.”
“She supported him and was just a wonderful wife to him,” Sundquist said.
Gov. Bill Haslam released a statement immedialty following the announcement of Baker’s death.
“Tennessee has lost a hero and a distinguished statesman, and I have lost a friend and mentor,” said Haslam. “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.”
Baker died at his home as result of complications from a stroke suffered a few days earlier, according to an email distributed at the law firm where Baker was senior counsel.
His funeral was scheduled in Huntsville on Tuesday.