Who Is James Baker? Former Secretary of State Breaks Down During George H.W. Bush Funeral

James Baker III, George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state, broke down while honoring the former president at his state funeral on Thursday.

Baker began his eulogy by saying that Bush was both his friend and role model for 60 years. He also offered an apology for what he was about to do—something Bush hated and his mother always urged him to avoid: brag about himself.

“‘Don’t brag about yourself,’ you once wrote. ‘Let others point out your virtues, your good points,’” Baker said. “Well, today Mr. President, I am that other with the special privilege and joy of sharing your good points.”

Baker went on to credit Bush with being a charter member of the Greatest Generation and noted that, as one of the youngest naval aviators, he was already etched in history. As for his impact on the world, Bush served in the military and as a congressman, ambassador to China, ambassador to the United Nations, director of the CIA and vice president, before winning the White House.

Baker called Bush one of the finest presidents in American history and said history would recall him as the very best one-term president.

“For millions and millions across the globe, the world became a better place because George Bush occupied the White House for four years,” Baker said. “He wasn’t considered a skilled speaker, but his deeds were quite elegant.”

james a baker george bush Former Secretary of State James Baker gives his eulogy for George H.W. Bush. David J. Phillip-Pool/Getty Images

Like others, Baker applauded Bush for being kind, decent, humble and determined to do the right thing to the best of his ability. The characteristics that he embodied, Baker said, were seen in America’s Founding Fathers.

“His wish for a kinder, gentler nation was not a cynical, political slogan. It came honest and unguarded from his soul,” Baker said.  

As friends for decades, Baker said, he valued that Bush described their relationship as similar to a big brother and a little brother.

While Baker remained remarkably composed during his remarks, he broke down a bit while delivering his final statement. “We rejoice, Mr. President, that you are safely tucked in now and through the ages with God’s loving arms around you, because our glory, George, was to have you as our president and as such a friend.” 

Before working with Bush in the White House, the two developed a relationship while working on his unsuccessful campaign for the Senate in 1970. He also ran Bush’s 1980 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. 

While that campaign was also unsuccessful, Bush became Ronald Reagan's vice president. Baker worked as Reagan’s chief of staff and secretary of the treasury before serving as Bush’s secretary of state. In 1991, Baker was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Baker was born in Houston and attended Princeton before serving in the Marine Corps. He graduated with a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

 

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