Scope and Contents
Correspondence from Capt. James A. Baker (Rice Institute Chairman, 1891-1941) to various family members and colleagues, newsclippings regarding William M. Rice and regarding Capt. Baker's death, and photographs of the Baker family.
Restrictions on Use
Permission to publish from the Capt. James A. Baker Family papers must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
Capt. James A. Baker was a prominent attorney in the law firm of Baker, Botts & Baker, who represented many wealthy citizens, one of whom was William Marsh Rice, founder of Rice University. In 1891, Baker was made a member of the Rice Institute Board of Trustees and eventually became Chairman of the Board. After Rice’s death in 1900, a suspicious Capt. Baker alerted authorities to the possibility of foul play. Because of his efforts, investigators discovered that Rice was in fact murdered by an associate.
As Chairman of the Board, Baker contributed to the establishment of Rice University an elite educational institution. Because of his business savvy, the Rice endowment was more than doubled in the early years of the university. Mr. Baker served as Chairman until his death on Aug. 2, 1941. His son, James A. Baker, Jr., served in World War II, became a lawyer in the family firm and continued the Baker commitment to Rice.
James A. Baker III., Capt. Baker’s grandson, was born in 1930 to the wealthy Baker family and attended Princeton University. He joined the military and spent two years as a marine lieutenant. After his stint in the military, Baker attended University of Texas School of Law and began a career as a lawyer which lasted until his wife’s death in 1970. At the urging of his friend George H. W. Bush, Baker ran for the Senate. He lost the Senate race, but went on to serve as chief of staff and Secretary of the Treasury in President Ronald Reagan’s administration and as Secretary of State under George Bush. He has had a hand in the management of every Republican campaign for president from 1976 to 1992. After his career in politics Baker returned to working as an attorney and became a member Baker Botts law firm.
On June 2, 1992, Dr. Richard J. Stoll, Director for the Center for the Study of Institutions and Values, as well as a professor of Political Science, sent a memo to then Rice President George Rupp, suggesting that Rice approach then Secretary of State James A. Baker III for the beginnings of a "James Baker Institute". Rupp responded favorably to Stoll's memo and thus the Baker Institute was born. On March 31, 1993, Secretary Baker gave a speech accepting Rice's offer of an Institute in his honor, laying down his ideas on the Baker Institute. In this speech, entitled Ideas Into Action, in which he charged the Baker Institute to "draw together statesmen, scholars and students...and...build a bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action..." These founding words were later used as the building stones for the external architecture of the building.
The Honorable James A. Baker, III would later served on the Rice Board of Trustees from 1993 to the present day, currently acting as Trustee Emeretus.