James A. Baker, III has served in senior government positions under three United States presidents. He served as the nation’s 61st secretary of state from January 1989 to August 1992 under President George H. W. Bush. During his tenure at the State Department, Baker traveled to 90 foreign countries as the United States confronted the unprecedented challenges and opportunities of the post-Cold War era. Baker reflected on those years of revolution, war, and peace in his book The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989-1992 (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995).
Baker’s record of public service began in 1975 as undersecretary of Commerce to President Gerald Ford. From 1981 to 1985, he served as White House chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan. Baker served as the 67th secretary of the Treasury from 1985 to 1988 under President Reagan. As Treasury secretary, he was also chairman of the President’s Economic Policy Council. 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 the course of 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. He received his J.D. with honors in 1957 and practiced law with the Houston firm of Andrews and Kurth from 1957 to 1975.
Baker also published a memoir, “Work Hard, Study . . . and Keep Out of Politics!”: Adventures and Lessons from an Unexpected Public Life (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 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 at Baker Botts L.L.P. He is honorary chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and serves on the board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 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 U.S. Congressman Lee H. Hamilton served as the co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel on Iraq. In 2008, 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, currently reside in Houston and have eight children and 17 grandchildren.