Bald eagle release honors Sen. Howard Baker Jr.

(WBIR - Scott County) Two months after his passing, tributes are still pouring in to honor late Senator Howard Baker, Jr.

Saturday, the American Eagle Foundation partnered with the Big South Fork National Park, Baker Donelson Law Firm, and the University of Tennessee's Baker Center to release a rehabbed bald eagle named Leader in honor of Baker.

Baker's daughter, Cissy Baker, said, "It's just the highest honor and privilege for our family and to release this eagle today in his name and in his honor just meant the world to us."

Al Cecere, founder and president of the American Eagle Foundation at Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, said the bald eagle was found hurt on side of a Hawkins County road near Cherokee Lake about three years ago.

Cecere said, "He had a broken humerus, a broken wing."

Leader spent the past two-and-a-half years in rehabilitation to gain enough strength to fly again.

Cecere and Cissy Baker both said the former senator, White House Chief of Staff, and U.S. Ambassador loved eagles. Cecere said he would take another bald eagle named Challenger to Baker's home, so Baker could take photographs of the bird.

"Senator was very proud of Challenger and was a close friend of Challenger, you might say," said Cecere.

Senator Baker was so close to Challenger, the bird attended the statesman's funeral on July 1.

Cissy Baker said, "I think he beat out two vice presidents, four members of Congress, three members of the Senate, and three governors."

Leader does not have a tracking device, but Cecere said he expects the bald eagle to be just fine in the wild and proudly represent late Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr.


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