A measure of a man is determined by the lives he touched. For those who knew Howard Henry Baker Jr., the late senator's measure was profound.
From Vice President Joe Biden to the people of Huntsville, about 140 invited guests packed into First Presbyterian Church to celebrate the former Senate majority leader. After service, Baker was laid to rest with military honors in the churchyard cemetery. Sen. Lamar Alexander delivered the eulogy, hailing Baker as Tennessee's favorite son and one of our country's finest leaders.
"Everyone will come here - the vice president is coming. But I think more importantly, a lot of Tennesseans are here," said Alexander.
Known as the "great conciliator," Baker inspired generations of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to create a better state, a better country.
"It's a day to say goodbye, but it's a day to celebrate a truly terrific life," said Sen. Alexander. "Baker inspired two or three generations of us to be active in public life - to try to create a two-party system and to make our state better."
Even though Baker held many prominent positions, including U.S. Senate majority leader and chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan, the Huntsville native remained a true son of Tennessee, never forgetting his Scott County roots.
"Tennesseans are like family," said Cissy Baker, daughter of the late senator. "When we moved to Washington when dad was elected to Senate he said, 'Don't ever forget that Tennessee is your home.' And we've never forgotten."
It's only fitting that Baker's funeral Tuesday was at First Presbyterian Church in Huntsville. First Presbyterian is where many people could find the late senator worshiping on Sundays.
No matter how successful the former senator became, Sen. Alexander said it was clear Baker was an East Tennessean through and through.
"One thing about Howard - he always came home to Huntsville," said Alexander. "He never stopped sounding like where he grew up. And he always said that the center of the known universe is Huntsville, Tenn."
So it was no surprise that Baker was laid to rest in Huntsville, Tenn., across the street from where he was born 88 years ago.
A bevy of dignitaries flew into the small Scott County town to pay their respects to the man who shaped so many lives. The guest list included former Vice President Al Gore, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.), Rep. Chuck Fleischman (R-Tenn.), Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), and former Sen. John Danforth (D-Mo.).
Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam and his father, Jim Haslam also attended the service. Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx, flew into Scott County as well to pay his respects to the late senator.
A motorcade escorted the body of Howard Baker Jr. to Huntsville Tuesday morning after it lain in repose the day before at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center of Public Policy at the University of Tennessee.
"I really think this is beautiful, and the changing of the guard is really cool," said Cissy Baker. "So I think some are grieving and say it's a sad occasion, but I really see it as a beautiful celebration of Howard Baker's life."
More than 700 people came by the Baker Center to pay their respects Monday, including former Gov. Don Sundquist and former UT football coach Johnny Majors.
"Everything he did, he did it right. And there hasn't been a moment since I've known him that I wasn't extremely proud of what he did," said Sundquist. "One of the regrets I have in my life is that Howard Baker was never president of the United States. He would have been a wonderful president."
During his decades in politics, Baker was a contender for the vice presidency and the presidency.
TIMELINE: Remembering Howard Baker Jr.
The former senator became well known nationally when he helped guide the nation through one of its darkest moments, the Watergate break-in and cover-up. During the televised hearings into the scandal that ended Richard Nixon's presidency, Baker raised the most memorable question from Watergate: "What did the president know, and when did he know it."
Baker passed away Thursday, June 26 at his home in Huntsville, following complications from a stroke he suffered the week before his death. He was 88 years old.
Baker's family has asked mourners to consider making contributions to UT's Howard H. Baker Jr. Center of Public Policy or the Howard H. Baker Medical Scholarship Fund.