Howard Baker Sr. entered the university at age 16. He was an outstanding student, debate team captain, president of the Philomathesian Literary Society (1921), and 1922 senior class president. He gave the university’s humor magazine, the Mugwump, its name and served as its editor in chief in 1921 to 1922. He was a member of Alpha Phi Epsilon honorary literary fraternity, Tau Kappa Alpha honorary debating fraternity, Pi Delta Epsilon honorary journalistic fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta honorary law fraternity, Phi Kappa Phi, and Sigma Nu fraternity. He was a Scarabbean. He received the BA in 1922. Baker graduated from the UT Law School in 1924, having completed the three-year course of study in two years and having served as editor of the Tennessee Law Review.
He was elected a state representative in 1928, as attorney general of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit in East Tennessee in 1934, and to the US House of Representatives in 1950, where he served until his death in 1964. (He was defeated in the race for governor in 1938 and in the race for US senator in 1940.) In 1956 Baker refused to sign the Southern Manifesto, which called for resistance to the US Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). He was elected seven times to serve the Second Congressional District. Upon his death, his wife, Irene B. Baker, was chosen in a special election to succeed him in office.
In March 1973 Irene Baker donated his and her political papers and memorabilia to the Special Collections division of the UT Libraries.