James Baker

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The Honorable
James Baker
61st United States Secretary of State
In office
January 20, 1989 – August 23, 1992
President George H.W. Bush
Preceded by George P. Shultz
Succeeded by Lawrence Eagleburger
67th United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
February 4, 1985 – August 17, 1988
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Donald Regan
Succeeded by Nicholas F. Brady
10th and 16th White House Chief of Staff
In office
August 24, 1992 – January 20, 1993
President George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Samuel Skinner
Succeeded by Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty
In office
January 20, 1981 – February 3, 1985
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Jack Watson
Succeeded by Donald Regan
Personal details
Born James Addison Baker III
(1930-04-28) April 28, 1930 (age 92)[1]
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Mary Stuart McHenry
(1953–1970; her death)
Susan Garrett Baker
Alma mater Princeton University (A.B.)
University of Texas (J.D.)
Profession Lawyer
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1952–1954 (active duty)
Rank Captain

James Addison Baker III (born April 28, 1930)[1] is an American attorney, former governmental official, and statesman.

He served as the White House Chief of Staff and in the Cabinets of two American presidents. During the Reagan administration he served as both Chief of Staff (1981-1985) and as Secretary of the Treasury (1985-1988), and in the George H. W. Bush administration, he served as Secretary of State (1989-1992) and as Chief of Staff (1992-1993). He is honorary chair of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas.[2]

Early life and education

James Addison Baker was born in Houston at 1216 Bissonnet,[3] to James A. Baker, Jr. (1892–1973) and Ethel Bonner (née Means) Baker (August 6, 1894 – April 26, 1991). His father was a partner of Houston law firm Baker Botts. Baker has a sister, Bonner Baker Moffitt.[4]

Baker attended The Hill School, a boarding school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Princeton University in 1952. Afterwards, he earned a J.D. (1957) from The University of Texas at Austin, was a member of Phi Delta Theta, and began to practice law in Texas.[5]

Baker served in the United States Marine Corps (1952–1954), attaining the rank of First Lieutenant and later rising to Captain in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

From 1957 to 1969, and then from 1973 to 1975 he practiced law at the law firm of Andrews & Kurth.

Early political career

Baker's first wife, the former Mary Stuart McHenry, was active in the Republican Party, working on the Congressional campaigns of George H. W. Bush. Originally, Baker had been a Democrat but too busy trying to succeed in a competitive law firm to worry about politics, and considered himself apolitical. His wife's influence led Baker to politics and the Republican Party. He was a regular tennis partner of George H. W. Bush at the Houston Country Club in the late 1950s. When Bush Sr. decided to vacate his Congressional seat and run for the U.S. Senate in 1969, he supported Baker's decision to run for the Congressional seat he was vacating. However, Baker changed his mind about running for Congress when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer; she died in February 1970.

Bush Sr. then encouraged Baker to become active in politics to help deal with the grief of his wife's death, something that Bush Sr. himself had done when his daughter, Pauline Robinson (1949–1953), died of leukemia. Baker became chairman of Bush's Senate campaign in Harris County, Texas. Though Bush lost to Lloyd Bentsen in the election, Baker continued in politics, becoming the Finance Chairman of the Republican Party in 1971. The following year, he was selected as Gulf Coast Regional Chairman for the Richard Nixon presidential campaign. In 1973 and 1974, in the wake of the Nixon Administration's implosion, Baker returned to full-time law practice at Andrews & Kurth.[6][7]

Baker's time away from politics was very brief, however. He served as Undersecretary of Commerce for President Gerald Ford and ran Ford's unsuccessful 1976 election campaign. In 1978, with George H. W. Bush as his campaign manager, Baker ran unsuccessfully for Attorney General of Texas, losing to future Texas governor Mark White.

Reagan Administration

"The Troika" (from left to right) Chief of Staff James Baker, Counselor to the President Ed Meese, Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver at the White House, December 2, 1981.

In 1981, Baker was named White House Chief of Staff by President Ronald Reagan, in spite of the fact that Baker managed the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford in 1976 and of George Bush in 1980 opposing Reagan.[8] He served in that capacity until 1985. Baker is considered to have had a high degree of influence over the first Reagan Administration, particularly in domestic policy.

In 1982, conservative activists Howard Phillips, founder of The Conservative Caucus, and Clymer Wright of Houston joined in an unsuccessful effort to convince Reagan to dismiss Baker as Chief of Staff. They claimed that Baker, a former Democrat and a Bush political intimate, was undermining conservative initiatives in the administration. Reagan rejected the Phillips-Wright request, but in 1985, he named Baker as United States Secretary of the Treasury, in a job-swap with then Secretary Donald T. Regan, a former Merrill Lynch officer who became Chief of Staff. Reagan rebuked Phillips and Wright for having waged a "campaign of sabotage" against Baker.[9]

Baker managed Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign in which Reagan polled a record 525 electoral votes total (of 538 possible), and received 58.8 percent of the popular vote to Walter Mondale's 40.6 percent.[10]

While serving as Treasury Secretary, Baker organized the Plaza Accord of September 1985 and the Baker Plan to target international debt. He had Richard Darman of Massachusetts as his Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. Darman would continue in the next administration as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

In 1985, Baker received the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[11]

During the Reagan Administration, Baker also served on the Economic Policy Council, where he played an instrumental role in achieving the passage of the administration's tax and budget reform package in 1981. He also played a role in the development of th Silver Eagle and the Gold Eagle, which both were released in 1986.

Baker also served on Reagan's National Security Council, and remained Treasury Secretary until 1988, during which time he also served as campaign chairman for George H. W. Bush's successful presidential bid.

Bush Administration

President George H.W. Bush appointed Baker Secretary of State in 1989. Baker served in this role through 1992.[12] From 1992 to 1993, he served as Bush's White House Chief of Staff, the same position that he had held from 1981 to 1985 during the first Reagan Administration.[13]

On January 9, 1991, during the Geneva Peace Conference with Tariq Aziz in Geneva, Baker declared that "If there is any user of (chemical or biological weapons), our objectives won't just be the liberation of Kuwait, but the elimination of the current Iraqi regime...."[14] Baker later acknowledged that the intent of this statement was to threaten a retaliatory nuclear strike on Iraq,[15] and the Iraqis received his message.[16] Baker helped to construct the 34-nation alliance that fought alongside the United States in the Gulf War.[17]

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991.

Baker arriving in Kuwait, 1991

Baker blocked the creation of Palestine by threatening to cut funding to agencies in the United Nations.[18] As far back as 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) issued a "declaration of statehood” and changed the name of its observer delegation to the United Nations from the PLO to Palestine.

Baker warned publicly, "I will recommend to the President that the United States make no further contributions, voluntary or assessed, to any international organization which makes any changes in the PLO's status as an observer organization."

Post-Cabinet career


In 1993 Baker became the founding chair of the James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Also in 1993, the Enron Corporation hired Baker as a consultant within a month of his departure from the White House, and Enron said that Baker would have an opportunity to invest in any projects he developed.[19]

In 1995, Baker published his memoirs of service as Secretary of State in a book entitled The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989–1992 (ISBN 0-399-14087-5).

In March 1997, Baker became the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara.[20] In June 2004 he resigned from this position, frustrated over the lack of progress in reaching a complete settlement acceptable to both the government of Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front. He left behind the Baker II plan, accepted as a suitable basis of negotiations by the Polisario and unanimously endorsed by the Security Council, but rejected by Morocco.

In addition to the numerous recognitions received by Baker, he was presented with the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Award for public service on September 13, 2000 in Washington, D.C..

In 2000, Baker served as chief legal adviser for George W. Bush during the 2000 election campaign and oversaw the Florida recount. A 2008 film Recount covers the days following the controversial election. During the making of the film Baker was interviewed. Baker was portrayed in the film by British actor Tom Wilkinson.

On September 11, 2001, Baker watched television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington DC, where Baker and representatives of Osama bin Laden's family were among those attending the annual conference for the Carlyle Group. Baker is Senior Counselor for the Carlyle Group, and the bin Ladens are among its major investors.[21][dubious ]

State of Denial, a book by investigative reporter Bob Woodward, says that White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card urged President Bush to replace Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with Baker following the 2004 election. However, another G. H. W. Bush Administration veteran, Robert Gates, was appointed instead, and only after the 2006 elections. Baker was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008.[22]


In December 2003, President George W. Bush appointed Baker as his special envoy to ask various foreign creditor nations to forgive or restructure $100 billion in international debts owed by the Iraq government which had been incurred during the tenure of Saddam Hussein.[23] On March 15, 2006, Congress announced the formation of the Iraq Study Group, a high-level panel of prominent former officials charged by members of Congress with taking a fresh look at America's policy on Iraq. Baker was the Republican Co-Chairman along with Democratic Congressman Lee H. Hamilton, to advise Congress on Iraq.[24] Baker also advised George W. Bush on Iraq.[25]

The Iraq Study Group examined a number of ideas, including one that would create a new power-sharing arrangement in Iraq that would give more autonomy to regional factions.[26] On October 9, 2006, the Washington Post quoted co-chairman Baker as saying "our commission believes that there are alternatives between the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate, of 'stay the course' and 'cut and run'".

Other advisory positions

Baker serves on the Honorary Council of Advisers for the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce.[27][28]

In May 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter appointed Baker to serve as the director, Office of Net Assessment. Baker succeeded Andrew Marshall, who retired in January after 42 years in the role.[29]

World Justice Project

James Baker serves as an Honorary Co-Chair for the World Justice Project. The World Justice Project works to lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the Rule of Law for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.

Personal life

Baker met his first wife, the former Mary Stuart McHenry, of Dayton, Ohio while on spring break in Bermuda with the Princeton University rugby team. They married in 1953. Together they had four sons. Mary Stuart Baker (Mary Stuart was her full first name) died of breast cancer in February 1970.

In 1973, Baker and Susan Garrett Winston, a widow and a close friend of Mary Stuart, were married.[7] She had two sons and a daughter with her late husband. She and Baker welcomed their daughter Mary Bonner Baker born in 1977.

On June 15, 2002, Virginia Graeme Baker, the seven-year-old granddaughter of Baker, daughter of Nancy and James Baker IV, was the victim of lethal suction-pump entrapment in an in-ground spa.[30] To promote greater safety in pools and spas, Nancy Baker gave testimony to the Consumer Product Safety Commission,[31] and James Baker helped form an advocacy group,[32] which led to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool And Spa Safety Act (15 USC 8001).[33]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Biographies of the Secretaries of State: James Addison Baker III". U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian. Retrieved November 17, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "About the Baker Institute". James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. Retrieved September 5, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. City of Houston: Procedures for Historic District Designation. City of Houston. (Adobe Acrobat *.PDF document). Retrieved: July 11, 2008
  4. "Mother of Secretary of State Baker dies here at 96". Houston Chronicle. April 26, 1991. Retrieved: July 11, 2008
  5. James A. Baker, 3rd, Current Biography, March 2007. Retrieved December 25, 2007. "Like his father, Jim Baker, as he prefers to be known, attended the Hill School, a college prep school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, then enrolled at Princeton University."
  6. Newhouse, John. "Profiles: The Tactician". The New Yorker. May 7, 1990. pp.50–82. Retrieved July 11, 2008
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Biography of James Baker". Princeton University Library. (Adobe Acrobat *.PDF document). Retrieved: July 11, 2008[dead link]
  8. James A. Baker III, Work Hard, Study... and Keep Out of Politics! (New York, 2006), 122.
  9. "Phil Gailey and Warren Weaver, Jr., "Briefing"". The New York Times, June 5, 1982. June 5, 1982. Retrieved January 27, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 1984 National Results U.S. Election Atlas
  11. "National Winners | public service awards | Jefferson Awards.org". jeffersonawards.org. Retrieved January 25, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. NNDB profile.
  13. NNDB, "White House Chief of Staff" list.
  14. Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf conflict: diplomacy and war in the new world order (New Jersey, 1993), 257.
  15. Plague war: Interviews: James Baker. Frontline. PBS. 1995
  16. 2000. "Sadam's Toxic Arsenal". Planning the Unthinkable. ISBN 0801437768
  17. James Baker: The Man Who Made Washington Work. PBS. 2015
  18. Bolton, John (June 3, 2011). "How to Block the Palestine Statehood Ploy". The Wall Street Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Baker and Mosbacher Are Hired by Enron". NYTimes.com. Retrieved March 25, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "U.N. ENVOY: Asking Baker to resolve dispute is good choice". Houston Chronicle. March 20, 1997
  21. "James Baker". nndb.com. Retrieved January 25, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 14, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. King, John. “Bush appoints Baker envoy on Iraqi debt”, “CNN.com”, December 3, 2003, retrieved August 11, 2009.
  24. Paley, Amit R. "U.S. and Iraqi Forces Clash With Sadr Militia in South". Washington Post. October 9, 2006
  25. "Baker surfaces as key adviser to Bush on Iraq". Insight Magazine. September 12, 2006
  26. Sanger, David E. "G.O.P.'s Baker Hints Iraq Plan Needs Change". New York Times. October 9, 2006
  27. Honorary Council of Advisers
  28. U.S. Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce
  29. http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/605502/dod-announces-appointment-of-james-baker-as-director-of-the-office-of-net-asses
  30. Dumas, Bob. "Troubled Waters" Pool & Spa News. October 2003
  31. Chow, Shern-Min. "Former Secretary of state pushes for hot tub safety standards". Vac-Alert. June 29, 2007
  32. Press Releases: "Former Secretary of State James Baker speaks in support of legislation intended to prevent accidental drowning". Safe Kids Worldwide. May 2, 2006
  33. "Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act". Consumer Product Safety Commission. at Vac-Alert. (Adobe Acrobat *.PDF document)

Further reading

Works by

  • 1995: The Politics of Diplomacy. with Thomas M. DeFrank. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 9780399140877.
  • 2006: "Work Hard, Study... And Keep Out of Politics!": Adventures and Lessons from an Unexpected Public Life. with Steve Fiffer. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 9780399153778.

Works about

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Jack Watson
White House Chief of Staff
Served under: Ronald Reagan

Succeeded by
Donald Regan
Preceded by
Donald Regan
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: Ronald Reagan

Succeeded by
Nicholas F. Brady
Preceded by
George P. Shultz
U.S. Secretary of State
Served under: George H. W. Bush

Succeeded by
Lawrence Eagleburger
Preceded by
Samuel K. Skinner
White House Chief of Staff
Served under: George H. W. Bush

Succeeded by
Mack McLarty