Former Senate Majority Leader and White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker passed away today of complications from a stroke. He was 88.
Baker made history in 1966 when he became the first Republican elected to the Senate from Tennessee since Renconstruction. He would become a nationally known figure during the Watergate Hearings when he asked John Dean, "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
Interestingly, two years earlier, President Nixon had offered Baker a seat on the Supreme Court following the retirement of John Marshall Harlan II. However, Baker was not forthcoming with a reply and Nixon instead appointed William Rehnquist who would later become Chief Justice. Imagine how different late 20th Century American history might have been had Baker accepted Nixon's offer.
Baker was on Gerald Ford's shortlist to be his running mate in 1976, but Ford opted for Bob Dole. Instead, Baker became Senate Minority Leader following Jimmy Carter's election.