James A. Baker Appointed U.S. Secretary of State1989
James Addison Baker III, Texas ’57, was named by then President-Elect George Bush to be the United States’ new secretary of state almost immediately following Bush’s victory in the November 1998 elections.
Baker served in senior government positions under three United States presidents. He served as the nation’s sixty-first secretary of state from January 1989 through August 1992 under President George Bush. During his tenure at the State Department, Baker traveled to ninety foreign countries as the United States confronted the unprecedented challenges and opportunities of the post-Cold War era.
Under President Ronald Reagan, Baker served as the sixty-seventh secretary of the Treasury from 1985 to 1988. As treasury secretary, he was chairman of the president’s Economic Policy Council. From 1981 to 1985, he served as White House chief of staff to President Reagan. Baker’s record of public service began in 1975 as undersecretary of Commerce to President Gerald Ford. It concluded with his service as White House chief of staff and senior counselor to President Bush from August 1992 to January 1993.
Long active in American presidential politics, Baker led presidential campaigns for Presidents Ford, Reagan, and Bush over five consecutive presidential elections from 1976 to 1992.
A native Houstonian, Baker graduated from Princeton University in 1952. After two years of active duty as a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, he entered The University of Texas School of Law at Austin. He received his JD with honors in 1957 and practiced law with the Houston firm of Andrews and Kurth from 1957 to 1975.
Baker’s memoir, Work Hard, Study . . . and Keep Out of Politics! Adventures and Lessons from an Unexpected Public Life was published in October 2006.
Baker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 and has been the recipient of many other awards for distinguished public service, including Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Award, The American Institute for Public Service’s Jefferson Award, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Award, The Hans J. Morgenthau Award, The George F. Kennan Award, the Department of the Treasury’s Alexander Hamilton Award, the Department of State’s Distinguished Service Award, and numerous honorary academic degrees.
Baker is presently a senior partner in the law firm of Baker Botts. He is the honorary chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and serves on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute board. From 1997 to 2004, Baker served as the personal envoy of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in seeking a political solution to the conflict over Western Sahara. In 2003, Baker was appointed special presidential envoy for President George W. Bush on the issue of Iraqi debt. In 2005, he was co-chair, with former President Jimmy Carter, of the Commission on Federal Election Reform. In 2006, Baker and former US Congressman Lee H. Hamilton served as the co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel on Iraq. In 2008, Mr. Baker and the late Secretary of State Warren Christopher served as co-chairs of the National War Powers Commission.
Baker was born in Houston, Texas, in 1930. He and his wife, the former Susan Garrett, reside in Houston and have eight children and nineteen grandchildren.