Former Tennessee Senator and Ambassador Howard H. Baker Jr. will be honored with American Lawyer magazine's 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes his contributions as a lawmaker, public servant and private practice attorney.
"It is an honor to be recognized alongside so many of my accomplished peers. I've been lucky to serve my country and enjoyed the challenges of practicing law over the course of my long career," said Sen. Baker, who currently serves as Senior Counsel at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC.
American Lawyer's Lifetime Achievers are senior lawyers who have made important contributions to public life while building outstanding private or public-interest practices. They are attorneys who bring the values of law and justice to client and public services. Previous recipients include former White House Chief of Staff James Baker (no relation), former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and former U.S. Attorney General and Governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh.
Sen. Baker graduated from the McCallie School in Chattanooga, studied at the University of the South, then Tulane University. After serving in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946, he attended the University of Tennessee Law College.
Upon graduation in 1949, he joined the Huntsville, Tn., law firm founded in 1888 by his grandfather, James Baker, and soon became known as one of the best trial lawyers in Tennessee. Among his most notable successes was an important victory in a case against the United Mine Workers after the union used violence to disrupt a company's contract with a rival union.
His public service career began in 1966, when he became the first Republican popularly elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. During his nearly 20 years in the Senate, he served as vice-chair of the Senate Watergate Committee and was twice voted Majority Leader.
His legislative achievements included assisting in drafting the Clean Air Act of 1970 and helping to pass fair housing and voting rights legislation. Senator Baker's ability to set aside partisanship and sway politicians earned him the nickname "the great conciliator."
In 1984, his service was recognized when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian award.
After leaving the Senate in 1985, Sen. Baker returned to his law practice, but in 1987, President Ronald Reagan asked him to serve as Chief of Staff, a position he held from February 1987 to July 1988. He again returned to his grandfather's law firm, which experienced considerable growth, expanding to multiple offices in Tennessee as well as additional locations in Jackson, Ms., and Atlanta.
In 2001, Sen. Baker was once again called to public service, this time by President George W. Bush, who appointed him the 26th U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Ambassador Baker served in that role from 2001 to 2005, and earlier this year received Japan's highest honor for foreign civilians from Emperor Akihito.
In 2005, Sen. Baker again returned to the law firm that bears his name. Started 120 years ago by his grandfather in a small two-room building in Huntsville, Tn., today Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz, PC is one of the 100 largest law firms in the country, with more than 550 attorneys and public policy advisors in 17 offices in five states and Washington, D.C., and a representative office in Beijing, China.
"Howard Baker's spirit and ideals are evident in his significant contributions as a public servant and attorney. His service and commitment are also reflected in the growth and success that this Firm has experienced over the years," said Ben C. Adams, Baker Donelson's chairman and CEO. "This Lifetime Achievement award is well-deserved recognition of the Senator's long and honorable career."
Sen. Baker will receive the award at a banquet in New York City on Oct. 29.