Baker Center Celebrates New Building
Political memorabilia from Sen. Howard Baker Jr.’s own collection.
Interactive exhibits that ask you to make key decisions lawmakers faced in major national controversies such as Watergate and Iran-Contra.
Stunning photographs that Sen. Baker has taken over the years.
You’ll find these and more in the museum housed in the new Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. The 53,000-square-foot center at 1640 Cumberland Ave. was built at a cost of $17 million, funded entirely by private dollars.
A grand opening celebration was held on Oct. 31. Dignitaries in attendance included U.S. Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Sandra Day O’Connor, Gov. Phil Bredesen, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and U.S. Rep. John Duncan.
Baker, who earned his law degree from UT Knoxville, served three terms as a U.S. senator and rose to national prominence during the Watergate hearings of 1973 - 74 as vice chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee. Baker was a candidate for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination and served as President Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff in 1987 - 88. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed him as U.S. ambassador to Japan, a post he served in until 2005.
In 2000, the U.S. Congress awarded UT a $6 million grant to help establish the Baker Center. Tennesseans serving in Congress at the time, including. Sens. Bill Frist and Fred Thompson, said it was appropriate that Baker’s leadership skills and contributions to public service be studied and copied.
The Baker Center, originally housed in Hoskins Library, opened in 2003 with the mission to further the public’s knowledge of our system of governance and to highlight the critical importance of public service, a hallmark of Baker’s career. Today, Baker helps raise money and create partnerships for the center. He also provides ideas and assists in programming.
In addition to the museum, the new building also houses the Modern Political Archives, which hold more than 100 collections of political papers from prominent Tennessee leaders including Baker, Thompson and former U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver, former Knoxville Mayor and Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe and former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Riley Anderson.
A 200-seat auditorium, classrooms, and break-out rooms provide space for instruction and conferences.
"The building will showcase and enhance the Baker Center’s work, making it an even greater asset to our university and our community," Baker Center Executive Director Alan Lowe said.
For more information about the Baker Center and webcasts of the grand opening events see http://bakercenter.utk.edu.